A superb career-best 143 by Tom Fell put Worcestershire on top in the LV= County Championship Division One match at Uxbridge, but Middlesex still finished the third day 64 runs in front at 140 for three in their second innings.
The 21-year-old Fell’s second championship hundred of the season had led the way as Worcestershire fought hard to reach 385 all out and a useful first innings lead of 76.
Middlesex then lost Sam Robson, Nick Gubbins and Nick Compton before they had knocked off the arrears but, from a wobbly 73 for three, Joe Burns and Paul Stirling put together an unbroken partnership of 67 to see their team through to stumps.
Robson completed an unhappy pair when he was caught at the wicket off Charlie Morris for a second-ball duck in the third over of Middlesex’s second innings. In their first innings of 309 he was out to the first ball of the match.
Gubbins made 23 before being bowled by a beauty from Saeed Ajmal, which hit the top of the left-hander’s off stump, and Compton batted well for 47 off 74 balls until he drove loosely at Jack Shantry’s left-arm seam and was smartly held to his right at slip by Alex Gidman.
Fell batted in all for 228 balls, hitting a six and 22 fours, after resuming on 75. Worcestershire, on 195 for three overnight, did well to earn themselves a decent-sized lead after initially slipping to 258 for six against the second new ball, which was due nine overs into the day.
Joe Leach made 19 before being bowled to become James Harris’s 45th first-class wicket of the season, helping Fell to add 50 for the seventh wicket. And, after Fell had been caught on the deep mid wicket boundary aiming for what would have been a second six in three balls off Toby Roland-Jones, there was another useful stand for the ninth wicket between Shantry and Ajmal.
Shantry twice pulled Roland-Jones for six in a jaunty 41 not out from 48 balls, and Ajmal hit out merrily for 20 before being bowled by Murtagh, who then castled last man Morris two balls later to finish with 4 for 76.
Earlier, Gidman was dismissed in the second over of the morning, failing to add to his overnight 30 before being bowled off stump as he shouldered arms to Murtagh.
Fell and Joe Clarke did their best to push on before the second new ball was taken immediately in the day’s tenth over, but 19-year-old Clarke was leg-before to Murtagh for 17 to the sixth delivery with the new cherry.
Ben Cox blunted Middlesex’s seam attack for a further eleven overs before edging Harris to second slip, on 6, but by then Fell had already gone to his 174-ball century by square-driving Roland-Jones for his 16th four.