Close, day three: Middlesex 105 & 57-1 trail Sussex 386 by 224 runs
Sussex 7pts, Middlesex 3pts
Steven Finn took six wickets but Middlesex face an uphill battle to avoid defeat at Hove after Matt Prior scored the first century of the new County Championship season.
The Sussex wicket-keeper pressed home his claims for an England recall with a belligerent 125, which ended when he hooked Finn to James Harris in the deep.
Finn did his own chances of impressing the Test selectors no harm at all as he finished with figures of 6-80, but Sussex were on top throughout day three, tailender James Anyon making 50 as the hosts established a huge first innings lead of 281.
Sam Robson then fell early in Middlesex’s response, although Chris Rogers and Dawid Malan steadied the ship as Middlesex closed on 57-1, still 224 runs behind.
Sussex, resuming on 86-3, were keen to score quickly after losing the whole of the second day to rain.
Frustratingly for Middlesex, the flashing blade of Prior offered up two chances but Adam Rossington couldn’t hold on to an early chance high above his head while Harris spilled a catch over the boundary rope.
Finn took two wickets in successive overs, removing Matt Machan for 36 and Ashar Zaidi for four, to peg Sussex back to 152-5 but Prior and Ben Brown continued to keep the runs flowing.
Prior, dropped by England for the final two Ashes Tests, reached his century from 112 balls to help Sussex to 209-5 at lunch.
The pair had put on 92 when Finn struck again, Brown edging to Malan for 44, and Prior’s knock came to an end not long afterwards when he holed out.
The Sussex lower order also got among the runs, putting on 133 for the final three wickets. Anyon made 50 and last man Jon Lewis hit 35 before the hosts were dismissed just after tea for 386.
Middlesex were unable to negotiate the final 19 overs unscathed as Robson, who made 11 in the first innings, was bowled by Steve Magoffin for one.
Rogers (27 not out) and Malan (21 not out) repelled the Sussex attack but Middlesex will need to bat out the day on Wednesday to avoid defeat.