DURHAM’S promotion hopes are all but over as Northamptonshire were left on the cusp of victory and a move up to Division One of the Specsavers County Championship.

Ned Eckersley’s stubborn 54 not out in 117 balls allowed Durham to survive to the close of day three, albeit in a hopeless position at 212 for 8 requiring 402 to win.

He delayed Northants victory that could seal their return to Division One. If Glamorgan fail to beat Leicestershire, Northants will be promoted. If Glamorgan win, Northants will need a maximum of four points from their final match at Bristol next week.

Here, they enjoyed another excellent day, adding 90 runs on the third morning thanks to Luke Procter’s season’s best 86 not out. The target always appeared fanciful and a second superb bowling display by the home attack moved them towards an big victory.

Durham head coach James Franklin said: “We’ve been outplayed by Northants and tomorrow is just the last rites. Ned has done exceptionally well to take us to the last day but we’ve been behind for all three days.

"We didn’t get it right in the first session of the match with the ball and we were on the back foot from the start.

"The pitch is still playing very well and there was more than enough time to chase maybe 350 but the batting again has been pretty average and that’s being honest."

Brett Hutton gave the fourth innings a big start with two wickets in the half hour Durham were left before lunch.

A full delivery swung into the left-handed Alex Lees, who shouldered arms and lost his off stump, before ending a tortured stay of Angus Robson who was dropped behind the wicket, survived a huge caught behind appeal and eventually feathered a catch to Rossington.

Hutton picked up a third wicket with Cameron Steel squared up and lbw for eight after lunch and then another after tea as a big inswinger cleaned up Ben Raine driving lavishly.

Durham did find a partnership mid-afternoon with BJ Watling and Jack Burnham adding 66 in 21.3 overs.

Watling edged a lifter from Gareth Berg wide of the slips cordon but survived to drive Berg through mid-on and Doug Bracewell through mid-off. He also inside-edged Procter narrowly past his stumps but responded with a sweet extra-cover drive. Procter won the war though, with a full delivery that moved in to knock out off stump and remove Watling for 35.

Burnham also couldn’t last until tea. He narrowly avoided edging a rising ball from Bracewell that he pushed at but generally left well and also drove smartly when possible to make 45. But with four overs until the break, he followed a ball from Procter that left him, edged, and was splendidly caught by Rossington diving full length to his right.

In between those wickets, Scott Steel the pushed at Ben Sanderson and was bowled for the second time in the match.

Eckersley again resisted well, showing the gumption his colleagues lacked. The captain shared a 50 stand with Brydon Carse that held up Northants. Carse slashed Bracewell to third slip for 30, only for Matt Salisbury to block back 55 balls for two runs to help take the match into day four.

Northamptonshire had began the day on the back foot. Resuming 235 for 6 with a lead of 321, they lost two wickets in seven balls - Bracewell slashing Raine to first slip before Berg fended at Chris Rushworth to give Robson another catch. Hutton pulled two boundaries but carved Brydon Carse to point for 16.

But just as Durham hoped to take momentum into the fourth innings, Procter grabbed it back. He fiercely pulled Carse for four and then hoisted him over the covered stand at deep square for six. He turned Raine for four to fine leg for another boundary before launching a second six over long-on that landed on the roof of the dressing rooms.

He jumped in the air to play a tennis-style swat through midwicket for four more and reached a season’s best unbeaten 86 before Ben Sanderson was last man out lbw for 14 to Carse. The final wicket added 51 and pushed Northants to 315 and a lead of 401.