Paul Coughlin led the way with a barnstorming, unbeaten 179 as Durham made the perfect start to their Second XI Championship final.
Facing Middlesex at the Emirates Riverside, Coughlin was the star turn as North Division winners Durham posted 408-6 from their 96 overs on the first day of the four-day final.
South Division champions Middlesex will no doubt be rueing their decision to field when they won the toss.
As the championship trophy will go to the side with a first innings lead – if the match is drawn – then Durham are clearly in pole position to be crowned champions.
Adam Hickey and Callum Steel put on 47 for the first wicket before the former was out lbw to Arthur Godsal for 20, having hit three boundaries.
Steel then combined with Liam Trevaskis to put on 55 for the second wicket, before the incoming batsman was dismissed for 22, caught by keeper Tom Lace off the bowling of James Harris.
First-team regular Coughlin was next in and his class told as, together with Steel, Durham added 213 runs in a memorable third-wicket stand.
Steel eventually fell five runs short of a century, having fired nine boundaries in a 249-ball knock of 95, caught by Lace off James Fuller.
Harris struck again soon after, dismissing James Weighell, caught and bowled, for no score off the batsman’s second delivery.
Brandon Carse did not last much longer, falling for eight, bowled by Fuller, and Usman Arshad scored just two before he was caught by Lace, as Harris snatched his third wicket of the innings.
Coughlin, though, saw out the day unbeaten in partnership with Sameet Brar to ease Durham past the 400 mark.
The Sunderland-born all-rounder will restart of 179 not out from just 202 balls, with 23 fours and two sixes in a memorable four-hour stay at the crease which has put Durham in complete control of the final.
Brar was 15 not out at the close.
Play continues tomorrow, with admission free to all spectators.