Gautam Gambhir showed enormous patience during his undefeated 135 while some of the junior batsmen threw away their wickets as Delhi reached 277 for four at stumps on day three of the Ranji Trophy Group A game against Karnataka.
The home team's gigantic 649 still seems a long haul as Delhi would need another 373 runs on the final day to ensure three points.
With only six wickets in hand, this looks improbable at the moment with Gambhir only having vice-captain Milind Kumar (10 batting) for company.
The likes of Unmukt Chand (16) and Rishabh Pant (41) did not show the wherewithal to stay at the crease and support the team's oldest cricketer, who mostly waged a lonely battle with partial support from Dhruv Shorey (64).
After Milind, next batsmen to come in the middle will be all-rounder Manan Sharma, who has had a nightmarish game with the ball.
For Delhi, the target will be not to get all out and prevent Karnataka from at least getting three points from the game.
With the pitch showing no signs of wear and tear, it will be difficult for Karnataka to push for innings victory even if they can fold Delhi's first innings by the first session tomorrow morning.
The day was all about Gambhir showing how to make runs at the first-class level. He has so far faced 237 balls and hit 20 boundaries.
There were straight drives and a few cover drives off seamers R Vinay Kumar (0/60 in 16 overs) and Abhimanyu Mithun (1/56 in 17 overs).
Against spinners Shreyash Gopal (0/64 in 16 overs) and Krishnappa Gowtham (1/46 in 20 overs), he was cautious and waited for the loose deliveries.
However, that was not the case with former U-19 World Cup-winning captain Chand, whose prolonged failure has raised questions about his place in the team.
On the day, he did all the hard work, staying at the wicket for the first hour before edging one-off military medium pacer Stuart Binny to keeper CM Gautham behind the stumps.
Shorey, who had a good outing against Uttar Pradesh, then forged a good 110-run stand with Gambhir, hitting eight boundaries off 97 balls. Once he was cleaned up by Mithun, skipper Pant came to the crease.
He got into the act hitting three boundaries and two sixes off 59 balls adding 83 runs in 22.4 overs.
However when the situation demanded responsible batting, Pant tried to play a delicate late cut off Gowtham, only dragging the ball back to his stumps to put Delhi in further trouble.
At Alur: Karnataka 1st Innings 649.
Delhi 1st Innings 277/4 (Gautam Gambhir 135 batting, Dhruv Shorey 64, Rishabh Pant 41)
At Pune: Maharashtra 1st Innings 481.
Railways 1st Innings 330/5 (Pratham Singh 73, Nitin Bhille 56, Shivakant Shukla 62, Chirag Khurana 2/50)
At Guwahati: Uttar Pradesh 349 and 221/2 (Umang Sharma 131 batting). Assam 318 (Shib Sankar Roy 72, Rishav Das 52, Saurabh Kumar 5/54).
Hosts Bengal staring at innings defeat against Vidarbha
Vidarbha tightened their grip on the Ranji Trophy Group D match against Bengal, who still need 206 runs more to avoid an innings defeat at the Bengal Cricket Academy ground here today.
In reply to Vidarbha's mammoth 499, Bengal, resuming day three at 89 for three, were bundled out for 207 in the second session to concede a 292-run first-innings lead.
After enforcing follow-on, Vidarbha pacer Lalit Yadav ripped apart the Bengal top-order, picking up the wickets of Abhishek Raman and Koushik Ghosh in three deliveries.
At stumps, the home team was struggling at 86 for three in their second essay. Sudip Chatterjee was unbeaten on 40 with skipper Manoj Tiwary on 36 following a 76-run unbroken partnership.
Earlier, Tiwary, resuming on 36 in the first innings, could not make it big and was cleaned up by Rajneesh Gurbani in the 39th over to end his overnight partnership with Ghosh on 89.
Gurbani (2/43) made another breakthrough in the first session in the form of Wriddhiman Saha, who got out for zero after consuming 39 deliveries, as the Bengal innings wobbled after the departure of the two experienced players.
Batting at a snail's pace, Ghosh took 138 balls to bring up his fifty, and got out at the same score after facing seven more deliveries.
Akshay Wakhare added two more -- Shreevats Goswami (9) and Aamir Gani (11) -- to take his tally to three wickets and it was a matter of time before Bengal's first innings folded in 81 overs with Aditya Sarwate dismissing Ashok Dinda and Ishan Porel in five balls.
"We will have to bat till tea in the second innings and we will try our best to secure a draw," skipper Tiwary said after the days' play.
A loss for third-placed Bengal, who are on 13 points after three matches, would deal a big blow to their knockout hopes.
In Kalyani: Vidarbha 499
Bengal 207; 81 overs (Koushik Ghosh 50, Manoj Tiwary 50; Akshay Wakhare 3/45, Lalit Yadav 2/43, Rajneesh Gurbani 2/43, Aditya Sarwate 2/27) and f/o 86/3; 29 overs (Sudeep Chatterjee 40 batting, Manoj Tiwary 36 batting; Yadav 3/16).
In Dharamsala: Himachal Pradesh 175 and 167; 49.5 overs (Nikhil Gangta 41; Shahnawaz Hussain 6/53).
Chhattisgarh 456; 135.2 overs (Rishabh Tiwari 131, Amandeep Khare 78, Manoj Singh 67, Ashutosh Singh 54; Rishi Dhawan 3/127, Sidharth Sharma 3/100).
In Delhi: Services 263 and 108/3; 34 overs (Ravi Chauhan 41 batting).
Goa 270; 117.5 overs (Keenan Vaz 70, Amogh Desai 52, Sagun Kamat 50; Sachidanand Pandey 5/61).
Swapnil Singh breaks eleven-year jinx with ton for Baroda
Swapnil Singh broke an eleven-year jinx as he scored his maiden first-class ton, a knock of 164 without a blemish, to help Baroda take massive first innings lead of 404 runs against Mumbai on day three of the Ranji Trophy Group C match.
And then Baroda had the hosts and 41-time champions on the ropes at 102 for 4, with Mumbai needing 302 runs more to avoid an embarrassing innings defeat in their landmark 500th Ranji game.
Overnight not out on 63 in a team score of 376 for four in reply to the hosts' meagre 171, Swapnil ground the hapless Mumbai attack relentlessly during a stay of five minutes under seven hours as Baroda reached 575 for 9 before applying the declaration at the Wankhede Stadium.
The bearded Swapnil, bowling left-arm spin, then produced a ripper to clean bowl young Mumbai opener Prithvi Shaw for 56, the ball pitching outside the leg and zooming to tilt the middle stump as the batsman offered a defensive shot.
Mumbai, faced with the daunting task of preventing an outright defeat, had lost captain Aditya Tare for 5 earlier and then surrendered two more wickets in fading light before Ajinkya Rahane (28) and Suryakumar Yadav (2) prevented further loss.
Apart from Tare and Shaw, Mumbai had lost Shreyas Iyer (8) and the promoted Vijay Gohil (0) in an extended day's play to stare a massive defeat in the face going into the final day tomorrow.
The third day's play belonged almost entirely to the 26-year-old, UP-born Swapnil, who had made his debut in first-class cricket 11 years ago as a boy just short of his 15th birthday, which also made him the youngest ever Indian first-class cricketer.
His highest score, in 42 games before today, was 95 and he finally reached the three-figure landmark with a single off left-arm spinner Vijay Gohil in 242 balls and 315 minutes.
Swapnil, in the company of the lower order, ensured that Baroda who lost two early wickets within half an hour in the morning did not allow Mumbai even a whiff of a chance to come back in the game.
Swapnil first added 63 runs for the seventh wicket with Atit Sheth, who made 25 on top of his five-wicket haul in the Mumbai innings. He then put on 109 runs in 121 minutes with Sagar Mangalorkar (43 not out) against the tired home side attack for the 9th wicket.
The two-down batsman was finally out, after hitting four sixes and ten fours, as he charged out to Dhawal Kulkarni with the third new ball in hand and was caught off the leading edge at deep point.
By then, Baroda had advanced to 463 and they declared soon afterwards to try and push for an outright victory.
Mumbai lost skipper Tare cheaply as he edged left-arm seam bowler Lukman Meriwala, who grabbed five wickets in the first innings, to 'keeper Mitesh Patel in the sixth over.
Exciting new talent Shaw, who made a duck in the first innings, batted fluently to complete his second half-century in 54 balls, studded with seven fours and a six, to add to his four tons in his sixth game.
Shaw looked in good touch when Swapnil bowled a dream ball to beat him all ends up and send him back with 12 overs left for stumps.
Then Iyer, out to a poor shot in the first essay, repeated his folly by trying to slog a short ball dug in by Sheth, the first innings destroyer, from outside the off and skied the ball to square leg to depart with stumps approaching.
Kartik Kakade then dismissed Gohil, promoted to see off the day, to leave Mumbai tottering at 99 for four before Rahane, after a stay of 117 minutes, and Yadav held the fort till close.
Brief scores: Mumbai 171 and 102 for 4 (Prithvi Shaw 56, Ajinkya Rahane batting 28, Suryakumar Yadav batting 2). Baroda 575 for 9 decl. (Aditya Waghmode 138, Vishnu Solanki 54, Swapnil Singh 164, Sagar Mangalorkar 43; Dhawal Kulkarni 2 for 79, Shardul Thakur 3 for 95, Vijay Gohil 2 for 177).
Behera, Pattanaik help Odisha defy Tamil Nadu
A determined display by the Odisha batsmen kept Tamil Nadu bowlers at bay as the host finished at 286 for 4 at the end of the third day's play in a Ranji Trophy Group "C" match.
Openers Natraj Behera and Sandeep Pattanaik, resuming at 36 for no loss, frustrated the Tamil Nadu attack with a century stand.
They mixed defensive play with attractive strokes to keep the scoreboard moving in response to the visiting team's 530 for 8 declared.
Yomahesh provided the breakthrough for the visitors when he got Pattanaik, caught by substitute Kaushik Gandhi after the openers had put on 136 runs.
Odisha skipper Govinda Poddar (29) played confidently and helped Behera add 48 runs before throwing it away. His attempt to whack off-spinner M S Washington Sundar saw a mishit fall into the hands of Abhinav Mukund.
On a slow wicket, Tamil Nadu bowlers found the going tough but two more quick strikes raised their hopes.
Subhransu Senapati, who walked in after the fall of Poddar, didn't last long and was castled by Sundar for 4.
Behera missed out on a well-deserved century when he was trapped leg-before by Rahil Shah to leave Odisha at 208 for 4.
His knock of 91 contained 13 fours and a six.
Biplab Samantaray (44 batting) and Shantanu Misra (37 batting) forged an unbeaten 78-run stand for the fifth wicket and more importantly played out 30 overs at a time when the Tamil Nadu bowlers were on the look-out for wickets.
Sundar was the most successful Tamil Nadu bowler, finishing with two wickets for 45 while Yomahesh and Shah scalped one each.
With just a day's play left, Tamil Nadu's chances of posting an outright win have been dented with the home team's batsmen showing great resolve on a docile pitch.
Brief scores: Tamil Nadu 530 for 8 declared in 165 overs (Murali Vijay 140, Vijay Shankar 100, B Aparajith 109 not out, B Indrajith 46, Suryakanth Pradhan 3 for 75) vs Odisha 286 for 4 in 101 overs (Natraj Behera 91, Sandeep Pattanaik 66, Biplab Samantaray 44 batting, M S Washington Sundar 2 for 48).
At Agartala: Andhra 402 in 144 overs (D B Prashanth Kumar 133, G Hanuma Vihari 62, Ricky Bhui 74, A K Sarkar 5 for 68) and 51 for 1 in 17 overs (Prashanth Kumar 29) vs Tripura 315 all out in 99.4 overs (M B Mura Singh 81, Gurinder Singh 81, S M Singha 39, Bhargav Bhatt 4 for 93).
At Mumbai: Mumbai 171 all out in 56.2 overs (Aditya Tare 50, Atit Sheth 5 for 50, Lukman Meriwala 5 for 52) and 102 for 4 in 29 overs (Prithvi Shaw 56, Ajinkya Rahane 28 batting) vs Baroda 575 for 8 declared in 180 overs (Swapnil K Singh 164, Aditya Waghmode 136, Deepak Hooda 75, Shardul Thakur 3 for 95).