Hashim Amla closed in on his 57th first-class century as he stemmed an early Surrey wobble to even up their LV= Insurance County Championship clash with Northamptonshire.
South African batter Amla ended the day unbeaten on 97 having rescued his title-chasing side for 46 for three and 80 for four.
He was indebted to Cameron Steel for sticking with him in a 115-run partnership to take Surrey to 224 for five at the close, trailing by 115 runs.
Northamptonshire suffered a morning collapse of their own as they were bowled out for 339, with Rob Keogh completing his 14th career hundred and fast-bowler Kemar Roach returning five for 95.
Roach did the majority of the damage as Northamptonshire lost six morning wickets for 90 runs to get bowled out for 339 in 18-morning overs.
Emilio Gay had been caught out to a short ball with the final ball of day one after an excellent 145. Ricardo Vasconcelos didn’t learn from his team-mate’s woes when he also took on a bouncer, only to pick out long leg, following a frenetic 18.
Saif Zaib was lbw attempting to sweep spinner Steel’s first ball of the morning, James Sales chipped Roach to extra cover before the West Indian pinned Lizaad Williams leg before.
Amongst the wickets, Rob Keogh had moved from 75, past his third century of the season (in 153 balls). He had been the sideshow to Gay on the first day, scoring the majority of runs behind the wicket – with 40 coming from the profitable guide to third, but became the focal point.
The right-handed batter reached 123 before he holed out to deep midwicket. It gave Roach, who sportingly shook Keogh’s hand as they converged, his second five-wicket haul of the season.
The innings concluded with Ben Sanderson swinging hard into the off-side only to be caught three-quarters of the way to the boundary. Surrey pocketed the maximum three bowling points for their title bid, with a further batting point coming before the end of the day – all of which could be key for them overcoming Hampshire for the pennant.
Surrey’s top order flattered to deceive, as apart from Amla, none of the top five reached 20. Much of this was down to the probing accuracy of Ben Sanderson and Jack White.
The former took his Championship tally to 34 for the year, the ninth best in Division One, when he thudded into Rory Burns’ pads.
But it was White who caused quick-fire harm to drop the visitors to 46 for three, albeit through loose batting after piling the pressure on. First, Ryan Patel hoicked from outside off stump to pick out long leg, before Ben Geddes flashed to a wide delivery and was caught behind.
Luke Procter produced a beauty, a ball which straightened into off stump, to castle Jamie Smith but Steel supplied Amla with a partner who would stay by his side.
Amla, using his innate analysis, had watched the areas Gay and Keogh had found scoring at its easiest, ie square of the wicket, and used that as a template for his innings.
Against pace, he out patience-d the attack to wait for straight balls to guide off his pads to the boundary and only went unorthodox against spin – where he unfurled a cover drive and a paddle sweep.
Fifty came and went in 119 balls – one ball more than Gay scored his century – as he stoutly maintained his consistency – but he ran out of time to reach three figures on day two.
Steel looked equally solid for his 48 – although showed some artistic style with some drives and pulls played with a flourish – but was bowled by a beautiful off-spin delivery out of a footmarks to be beaten between bat and pad by Keogh.
Soon after Jordan Clark had smashed a six over square leg, the umpires ended the day’s play early, with 12 overs lost.
Northamptonshire batting coach Ben Smith: