KEATON Jennings looked every inch a Test-class batsman as he, and yesterday's rain, kept Durham afloat against Nottinghamshire at Emirates Riverside.
Only 50 minutes' play was possible yesterday and Durham will go into the final day on 201 for seven, 58 ahead, with Jennings on 82.
Weather permitting, he will be looking to carry his bat for the second successive home game after his 201 not out against Surrey at the end of last season.
While fellow opener Stephen Cook's debut scores of nought and two underline the difficulties of batting against the new ball at Riverside, especially in April, Jennings has mastered the art in remarkable fashion.
He began last season with a century in both innings at home to Somerset and went on to hit four more hundreds at Riverside and one at Edgbaston in setting a Durham record of seven in a season.
A century on his Test debut in India followed and the way he has played over the weekend suggests he will be lost to Durham from early July this summer.
He should miss only four championship games, however, before returning for the final two in late September.
Play began at 12.25 yesterday with lunch scheduled for 1.30, but the rain returned at 1.15 and persisted all afternoon.
Jennings needed to change his bat when the day's second ball from James Pattinson leapt awkwardly, but remained as imperturbable as ever.
With no addition to the overnight 162 for five, Ryan Pringle blocked Jake Ball's first four balls then drove loosely across the line and was bowled.
Like Cook, he scored nought and two, but did not have the excuse of facing the new ball.
Jennings drove successive balls to the boundary on either side of the wicket in Ball's second over, then a fierce cut off Pattinson also flew to the rope, followed by an imperious straight drive off Ball.
Stuart Poynter took ten runs off a Ball over, helped by a four through the vacant third slip area, only to lose his off stump to Harry Gurney on 17.
After two early strikes on Saturday, Durham were in the game. But they couldn't shift nightwatchman Luke Fletcher, who equalled his career-best 92 before being run out.
Fletcher manoeuvred his stocky frame solidly into line to block the good balls, evaded the short ones intended to unsettle him, and drove with an authority which belied his first-class average of 14.46.
On three overnight, he completed his fourth first-class 50 just before lunch, then resisted a lengthy spell from Mark Wood.
When Durham briefly turned to Pringle's off breaks, Fletcher lofted him for a straight four then swept his 13th boundary to reach 90.
He added two singles before his 153-ball innings cruelly ended after he slipped when trying to turn back from halfway down the pitch. Had he not also dropped his bat he would have regained his ground at the non-striker's end.
With Pattinson making 59, the visitors built a first innings lead of 143 then reduced Durham to 24 for three before Paul Collingwood made 40 in a stand of 71.
He was going well until Pattinson returned for a second spell. After reacting with disbelief when his prolonged lbw appeal was turned down off his first ball, Pattinson worked up a fiery pace and was rewarded by a sensational catch from Riki Wessels.
The ball was travelling like a bullet when he leapt to cling on left-handed high above his head at first slip.
Paul Coughlin batted confidently, striking seven fours in making 36 off 37 balls, before Pattinson returned to administer another short, sharp shock. Coughlin shaped to turn a full ball to leg and was lbw.
Jennings will need prolonged support from Wood today if Durham are to have any chance of survival.