A WONDERFUL century by Scott Borthwick and a face-saving last-wicket stand of 95 with Graham Onions only partially rescued Durham from a dire predicament at Worcester yesterday.

When the hosts reached 55 for one in their second innings, leading by 175, they were still firmly in the driving seat. But then a break for bad light worked in Durham's favour.

With the umpires constantly checking the light on the resumption, Worcestershire lost five wickets for ten runs to close on 65 for six. John Hastings, wicketless in the first innings, took three for six in two overs.

His final victim, Alex Gidman, was pinned lbw by a ball which kept ominously low, as several others had done. Durham will not want to chase many more than 200 on a pitch on which they slumped to the undignified depths of 103 for nine before Onions went in.

The deficit was down to 125 before two decisions by former team-mate Martin Saggers went against Durham.

If Borthwick looked astonished to be given out lbw for 103, Chris Rushworth was positively aghast when Richard Oliver was given not out after being struck on the pad by a ball which looked to be hitting middle stump halfway up.

Oliver was on one and an immediate breakthrough would have further lifted morale, but the total progressed to 29 before Saggers upheld the next, less convincing, appeal.

Every run could be vital in a game which has shown that cricket is becoming increasingly strange. This was the fourth time this season in Durham matches that last-wicket stands have been the highest of the innings.

But the first bizarre sight of the day was left-arm medium pacer Jack Shantry bowling round the wicket to right-handers with five slips.

He had two men caught there in finishing with four wickets, but the pick of the bowlers was the strongly-built ex-Shropshire all-rounder Joe Leach.

He took the first three, which included having Paul Collingwood lbw for three after the Durham captain promoted himself two places to No 4.

This was presumably designed to take some pressure off Michael Richardson now he is keeping wicket, but it didn't work and seven successive batsmen were out for single figures as Durham failed to pick up a batting point for the third successive match.

Their struggles also pointed to the fact that where their bowlers failed on the first day, Worcestershire succeeded by bowling the right length on a cloudy morning, reducing their visitors from 24 without loss to 73 for six at lunch.

Three more fell to edged catches shortly afterwards, but amid all the mayhem Borthwick had progressed to 47 when he was joined by Onions.

Seventy runs later the follow-on had been avoided, Onions taking Durham past the target with an off-drive for four, which was warmly greeted by the travelling support. He finished on 36, his highest score for three years.

Borthwick did have a few early difficulties. When getting off the mark with a clip behind square he went back for a slightly risky second and had to scramble in as the ball struck his helmet, which had to be replaced.

On three he inside edged Charlie Morris for four, the ball just missing his leg stump, but he was largely untroubled thereafter and had eight fours in his 93-ball half-century.

When Onions went in the field was pushed back and Borthwick settled for taking singles off the fourth or fifth ball of each over, although two pulls and an off-drive did produce three successive fours off Leach.

While all previous edges had carried, Onions edged Morris just short of the wicketkeeper on two and on 12 he edged left-armer Ross Whiteley over the slips for four to bring up the 50 stand.

Borthwick went to his hundred off 178 balls by pulling Leach for his 14th four. Since a century at Edgbaston two years ago prompted his promotion from eight to three he has scored six more championship hundreds, plus a 94 and 97 not out this season.

His stand with Onions was the third highest tenth-wicket partnership in Durham's history, beating the 84 put on by Danny Law and Nicky Hatch, also against Worcestershire, at Kidderminster in 2001.

In Leach's impressive nine-over opening spell Keaton Jennings drove at an away swinger and edged low to second slip and Mark Stoneman was aiming to drive through mid-on when his off and middle stumps were splattered.

Richardson drove at a ball from Morris which was not a half volley and edged to the wicketkeeper, bringing in Gordon Muchall at 59 for four. It was not the situation in which Durham would have wanted him to go in on his return to the side.

He was off the mark with a single off his first ball, but then faced a further 25 without scoring before he played back to a ball from Shantry which kept low and had him lbw.

Calum MacLeod made three before falling in the final over before lunch, trying to whip Morris to leg and getting an edge on to his pad for the ball to lob to short leg.

Rushworth made it tough for Worcestershire in their second innings in a spell of two for 13 in nine overs and when Hastings replaced him he took wickets with his third and fifth balls.

Daryl Mitchell pushed forward and edged behind then Alexei Kervezee gloved a lifter to first slip before Whiteley drove at Paul Coughlin and edged to Richardson.

Gidman's demise prompted another halt for bad light with nine overs left. Durham will need to polish off Worcestershire very quickly this morning.