Alex Wakely scored a century and Matt Critchley celebrated his best first-class figures as Derbyshire and Northamptonshire continued to trade blows in the Division Two County Championship match at Chesterfield.
Wakely made 108 and shared a sixth wicket stand of 120 with Steven Crook, 60, but Critchley’s 4 for 88 and 4 for 33 from Tony Palladino triggered a late collapse that limited Northants to 289 and a slender lead of 29.
Half centuries from Ben Slater on his home patch and Wayne Madsen tilted the initiative towards Derbyshire until two late wickets from Seekkuge Prasanna left the contest intriguingly poised at the end of day two with the home side147 for 4, 118 on.
Northants had looked on course for a sizeable lead when Wakely and Crook batted into the afternoon after Derbyshire had taken two wickets in six overs.
Nathan Buck extended his nightwatchman duties by 35 minutes before he was tempted into driving at the second ball from Critchley and was well caught low down by Billy Godleman at mid off.
Godleman grassed a simpler chance in Critchley’s next over but Richard Levi did not make the most of the reprieve and was deceived by one from Hardus Viljoen that came back.
At 118 for 5, Derbyshire had an opening but Crook and Wakely played with increasing authority as Derbyshire’s bowlers tired in the sweltering conditions.
Wakely pulled Critchley for six and when off-spinner Hamidullah Qadri replaced him at the Lake End, he drove him for two sixes in an over.
After passing 6,000 first-class runs, Wakely pulled Critchley for his 12th four to reach his first hundred of the season and only the second by a Northants player this summer.
But Critchley got one to turn and bounce to have Wakely well caught at slip by Madsen and the innings went into sharp decline when Josh Cobb drove back a return catch.
Crook was lbw to one that nipped back from Palladino and Prasanna perished trying to hit Critchley out of the ground before Palladino defeated Brett Hutton’s defensive push.
Ben Sanderson had Billy Godleman caught behind with Derbyshire only eight in front but Slater and Wayne Madsen took control before Prasanna provided a late twist with two wickets.
Slater had reeled off some flowing drives to pass 50 but then chipped Prasanna tamely to short midwicket before Alex Hughes was trapped lbw stretching forward to the Sri Lankan.
Madsen completed his sixth 50 of the season but Sanderson bowled nightwatchman Dan Wheeldon with one that kept low four overs before the close.