IT will be a sad day for Durham when Paul Collingwood retires. They can only hope that innings as valuable as his 58 yesterday will persuade him to carry on for another season.

Without it they might have lost in two days at home to struggling Somerset, although if the visitors score the 279 they require today the captain will surely regret deciding to bat first.

Durham knocked off 260-plus when batting last to secure this season's home wins against Sussex and Nottinghamshire, and Paul Coughlin's run-a-ball half-century yesterday, followed by an onslaught from John Hastings, suggested the pitch was again flattening.

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Durham were only 65 ahead on 101 for six in their second innings when Coughlin joined Collingwood and there had been frequent suspicious glances at the pitch as 12 wickets had fallen in the day's first 54 overs.

The captain had dredged the depths of his experience to survive against the swing and variable bounce, and prevent his team from capsizing. And his faith in the youngsters he is bringing through was rewarded as Coughlin fearlessly dominated a stand of 73 in 13 overs.

While defending doggedly, Collingwood remained alert to opportunities to put away bad balls and was starting to look comfortable when he advanced to meet a ball from Jim Allenby, which he worked wide of mid-on for his eighth four to reach 50 off 93 balls.

Although he became the fourth victim of extra bounce in the innings when he edged Craig Overton to the wicketkeeper, the ball was almost 50 overs old and Hastings emerged determined to cash in on the captain's graft.

Coughlin seemed happy to knuckle down while Hastings swiped a few fours, only to depart for 54 when he drove Peter Trego straight to mid-on.

Hastings responded by smashing Tim Groenewald high over long-on and pulling the next ball fiercely for four. In the next over he swept Trego to the long leg boundary then pulled him in front of mid-wicket for the six which took him to 50 off 47 balls.

With Chris Rushworth playing confidently at the other end, Hastings slowed down after reaching 72 off 57 balls and finally edged Tim Groenewald to Marcus Trescothick to depart for 79, four short of his best for Durham.

Rushworth was three short of his career-best when he edged to the wicketkeeper to depart for 43 in the day's last over with the total on 314.

On a cloudy morning Somerset declined from their overnight 147 for four to 225 all out, a lead of 36. Batting was clearly difficult and Johann Myburgh, who resumed on 57, left as many balls as possible in the first three overs but when forced to play at one by Hastings he edged it to wicketkeeper Michael Richardson.

Allenby fell for 20 when he edged a drive to Collingwood at first slip to give Rushworth his fourth wicket. That was a relatively straightforward catch, but the captain's next effort showed remarkable reflexes and agility for a 39-year-old as he leapt high to his left to hold Lewis Gregory's edged drive off Hastings.

Coughlin chipped in with a couple of wickets, clinging on to a sharp return catch from Trego and having Overton well caught low down at mid-on by Graham Onions, who had been off the field through illness the previous evening.

He briefly retired yesterday morning but finally came on to bowl at 12.30 and Groenewald launched his fifth ball high to mid-wicket, where Hastings hung on to the swirling chance.

In Durham's second innings, Keaton Jennings, top scorer with 49 in the first, departed for one, playing on as a ball from Groenewald kept low.

Three of the next five wickets to fall resulted from steep bounce with left-handers Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick being caught at gully off the shoulder of the bat.

Overton also claimed the second of his three wickets by forcing Richardson to edge to first slip off the back foot.

At the other extreme, Gregory skidded one through to pin Calum MacLeod lbw for his second duck of the match and fourth in eight innings.

Gordon Muchall made 17 before he tried to whip an away swinger from Trego through mid-wicket and was adjudged lbw. But the fifth-wicket stand of 33 had started a recovery which gathered momentum in amazing fashion and gave Durham the chance of a fifth win in eight games.