An unbroken century opening stand between Billy Godleman and Luis Reece raised Derbyshire’s hopes of a first County Championship victory since July 2015 at the end of the third day of the Division Two match against Northamptonshire at Derby.
Reece made an unbeaten 69 on his Derbyshire first-class debut and Godleman 63 not out as Derbyshire closed a day when 44 overs were lost to rain on 142 without loss, a lead of 116.
Max Holden had earlier top scored for Northants with 76 to earn the visitors a first innings lead of 26 but their bowlers could not breakthrough and they lost paceman Ben Sanderson with an injury.
Derbyshire’s first task was to break the last wicket stand which had given Northants an unlikely lead and Tom Milnes ended Holden’s impressive innings when he beat his attempted drive in the third over with the second new ball.
But Holden and Sanderson had added 47 in 10 overs which meant the last two wickets had put on 136 to swing the initiative back to the visitors but Derbyshire fought hard to see off the new ball.
It was tough going for Reece and Godleman in conditions which favoured the bowlers but although they were beaten a number of times, they did not offer a chance in 22 overs before lunch although Rory Kleinveldt had a very good lbw shout against the Derbyshire captain turned down.
Derbyshire scored only 38 before the interval which reflected the quality of the bowling and the determination of the openers to preserve their wickets with Reece again displaying a sound temperament and good judgement in his second first-class innings for his new county.
Northants were handicapped by the loss of Sanderson from the 28th over when he pulled up after bowling a short ball at Reece and limped back to the pavilion but that should not detract from the quality of the opening stand.
Reece had shown in the first innings he was prepared to be patient and his application was rewarded when his sixth four took him to 50 shortly before tea.
Rain and bad light delayed play until just before 6pm but in the remaining 16 overs, Derbyshire stretched their lead past three figures to give themselves a chance of forcing a win on the final day.