Kent will have to knock out the final day of the match against Surrey in Beckenham to draw.
The hosts were knocked out for 230 on Saturday in their first innings and will resume the final day of their LV = County Championship match 82-1, still 359 runs from making Surrey bat again.
Today’s big discussion point was when Kent opener Ben Compton got his helmet loosened after ducking into a ball from Jamie Overton that did not climb as high as he expected. Compton’s helmet rattled into the stumps to trigger the Surrey celebration, but the judges correctly excluded due to a relatively new ECB regulation.
Stroke players are no longer counted when their helmet or protective gear hits the stumps and loosens the bail when they play domestic cricket, a directive introduced by the ECB 2020 to improve player safety.
This means that Compton, who was 44, at that time survived what was a hostile spell by Overton.
But after escaping to the other end to meet the relative calm of spinner Will Jacks, Compton ended up behind at 47 – a decision he obviously felt very clear about.
It was the third of four expulsions in today’s opening session when Kent, after navigating comfortably to 71-1, lost four wickets in 39 runs.
Daniel Bell-Drummond was the first to go, brilliantly taken with one hand low at the second slip by Ollie Pope from Overton’s third ball of the day.
Jack Leaning made nine before being thrown by Jacks and Jordan Cox went just before lunch for 12, hitting a wide ball from Daniel Worrall that he could have left alone.
Darren Stevens was yorked by Overton early in the afternoon session for seven but George Linde and Ollie Robinson led Kent’s recovery.
They put on 41 for the seventh wicket before Linde fell. The South African became the first batsman from Kent to go after Jack’s spin, but the Surrey man had the last word, Linde played an attacking shot too much and fell against Rory Burns in grinding for an enterprising 26.
Matt Milnes also added 41 along with Robinson for the eighth wicket, but the former went for 13, making Colin de Grandhomme Pope in the second slip at 13.
At 207-8, Nathan Gilchrist stepped out and tried to avoid a record seventh first-class finish in a row. He succeeded by getting off the mark for the third ball he encountered, driving the Grandhomme through the blanket in three to ironic cheers from the home supporters.
Robinson, meanwhile, must have wondered what the essence was about at the other end when he reached a third half-century in a row, on what was still a good battlefield.
Gilchrist held on to just seven balls, giving Jacks (4-65) his fourth wicket for five with a score of 224-9.
Matt Quinn lasted long enough to ensure Kent forced Surrey to take the second new ball but Robinson was out when he hooked on Overton (3-33) to Jacks for 71 and Kent was behind with 441 runs on tea.
For the second time, Compton and Zak Crawley seemed to have negotiated the final session with few alarms, Crawley went far off the rails and Compton sawed off Overton without any problems.
Sam Curran, who threw five overs of tempo at the end of day two, came into the attack with eight overs left of the day and bowled his left arm spin for the guests when he returned from injury – an experiment that lasted only two overs.
But it was a late turn in the story when Crawley continued to play against Jacks with only nine balls left of the day in 35.
Robinson said: “I think we are obviously disappointed not to get more in the first innings, but the boys showed a lot of struggle there and it is a turning point for us if we get through tomorrow unscathed and come out with a draw.
“They bowled beautifully and fair play against them. The runs were not really the goal for me, I just tried to time out from the game and make tomorrow as short as possible.
“It was a bit hard, I did not feel fluent but I am quite happy. I was disappointed to get out at the end, it would have been nice not to be out.
“It was a tough start to the year, but it’s nice to finally find some form. It’s weird because I never really felt like I was out of shape, just by running.
“Every time I hit, I still felt safe. It was the first time I really doubted myself in the first three games, so proving to myself that I can do it again is a great feeling.”