Brett Hutton’s 5 for 59 and 62 from Ricardo Vasconelos put Northamptonshire on top against Derbyshire at Wantage Road but Hardus Viljoen’s four wickets ensured the home side were not out of sight at the end of the day three, with Northants 198 for 8 in their second-innings, leading by 231.
Hutton’s third five-wicket haul of the season helped bowl Derbyshire out for 222, giving Northants a first-innings lead of 33, before Vasconcelos built the lead. But from 154 for 2, the home side slipped to 192 for 8 to leave the game nicely poised heading into the final day.
Initially, progress was slow-going for the home side in their second-innings as they made 49 in 24 overs by tea for the loss of Ben Curran for 11 to a tremendous low return catch by Ravi Rampaul, diving down low to his right.
But runs began to flow after tea. Luke Procter, after a difficult 21 in 128 balls, was strangled down the leg side but it brought Levi to the crease and the lead was quickly extended.
The South African pulled Alex Hughes for six and drove the same bowler down the ground for four before pulling Viljoen for another six over midwicket and slamming Matt Critchley’s leg-spin over the sight-screen. But trying to pull his way to fifty, skied a catch to deep-square to fall for 46.
Vasconcelos wasn’t as brutal but still played some attractive strokes - he drove Rampaul on the up through the covers and then pulled the same bowler for four more. Viljoen was uppercut off a top-edge over first slip for the left-hander’s seventh boundary and his eighth - timed perfectly past extra-cover - brought him fifty in 85 balls.
But after Levi fell, ending a bright partnership of 75 for the third wicket, Vasconcelos chipped Critchley to midwicket and when Adam Rossington was bowled by Rampaul for 1, Northants had lost 3 for 1 in eight balls.
Charlie Thurston, on his first-class debut, made a positive 25 before driving Viljoen to point and the same bowler had Josh Cobb caught behind for 3 and Hutton caught at mid-off for 0 to keep Derbyshire in the game.
Earlier in the day, Hutton had helped bowl Northants to a first-innings lead. He bowled Anuj Dal via an inside edge and induced a thin outside edge behind from Viljoen before returning after lunch to have Tony Palladino caught a long-leg after an enterprising 26 that delivered Derbyshire a batting point.
That point looked unlikely when Derbyshire slipped to 150 for 7 in the morning session but Harvey Hosein flicked three boundaries off his legs in making 30 before falling lbw to Ben Sanderson in the over after lunch - his 50th wicket of the season.