Aiden Markram led a Durham fightback on day three of their Specsavers County Championship Division Two clash against Leicestershire at Emirates Riverside.
The South African entered the crease under pressure after the home side had been dismissed for 184 in their first innings in reply to Leicestershire’s total of 440.
However, Markram ended his run of three-straight ducks, putting forward a fine display, although he fell narrowly short of a century.
Cameron Steel and Will Smith also found form, with the former scoring a fifty, to almost erase the deficit and give Durham hope of salvaging a draw from the contest heading into the final day.
Markram was relieved to get off the mark after his run of ducks. He said: “I take pride in my performance. I really don’t like being the guy that’s not contributing.
“I like to contribute for the side. Obviously I didn’t do that in the first two games.
“I didn’t start off well, but fortunately, coming into the second innings today, it worked out.
“It was a bit of a relief.
“I’ve been training hard to try to become accustomed to conditions, and slowly but surely I feel that I’m finding my feet.”
His positive approach paid off, and Markram added: “It was never an identified thing I was going to do to come out and play positively.
“I didn’t want to go into my shell on a wicket like that. The more positive you are the better you move as a player and that can get yourself out of jail every now and then.
“That was my plan to try to look and score, obviously within certain gameplans that suit myself and towards the pitch.
“It worked out well today, we know how this game works you can quite easily in the next three innings get three ducks again.
“You don’t wish it upon your worst enemy, it’s not a great place to be in, it’s quite a dark place. To come out of it today is going to do a great deal for my confidence.”
The hosts began day three on 142-7, but were quickly skittled out as Varun Aaron, Neil Dexter and Gavin Griffiths wrapped up the innings.
Griffiths finished with career-best figures of 4-34 as he ended Graham Clark’s resistance, notching the final wicket.
Markram breathed a sigh of relief as he avoided his fourth pair on the bounce, getting off the mark with a glance into the legside.
His confidence surged throughout his innings and he was able to reach his half-century in 75 deliveries, including nine boundaries.
Along with Steel, the duo brought up the 100-partnership in the 31st over and were able to gradually whittle down Leicestershire’s advantage. Markram was pushing hard as he found his full flow before tea, dispatching the visitors’ bowlers to the boundary with ease.
However, he fell six short of his ton as he was dismissed lbw by Callum Parkinson just after the 150-partnership for the opening wicket.
Steel maintained his vigil at the crease and he recorded his first half-century of the term off 162 deliveries, finding the boundary five times.
Will Smith ensured that Durham did not suffer another batting collapse, combining with his team-mate for a stand of 50, which was unbroken at the close of play.
Durham still trail by 23 runs, but the efforts of their top order have given them hope of securing a draw. Leicestershire lacked ideas with the ball as the pitch remained flat even after a change of ball.
It will take a strong effort in the morning for the visitors to swing momentum back in their favour and end their 17-match winless run in the County Championship.