WORCESTERSHIRE’S hopes of ensuring their LV= County Championship Division One survival with a match to spare were literally falling out of their grasp.
Having seen his team-mates put down two chances on the opening day against Sussex, James Cameron spilled one of the easiest catches he may ever have.
With Sussex on 366-9, James Anyon, on 37, pulled spinner Moeen Ali only to sky the ball.
All-rounder Cameron managed to get himself in position and seemed to be watching the ball into his hands only to put it down at the last second.
That missed opportunity summed up Worcestershire’s fielding in this pressure match.
If the County, who were 20/1 on to be relegated at the start of the campaign, can beat Sussex — although that seems a long way off at the halfway stage — they will all but seal their top-flight status for a second successive season ahead of Monday’s trip to title-chasing Durham.
Although that dropped catch gave Sussex a slight reprieve, Moeen, who struck with his first ball of the day to remove wicketkeeper Ben Brown (71), trapped Monty Panesar (20) as the visitors went from 289-8 at the start of the day to 375 all out.
But, with off-spinner Moeen taking 4-53, Panesar knew he too could get something out of the New Road wicket.
The former England spinner proved particularly dangerous and accounted for Vikram Solanki and Moeen either side of the tea-break.
Solanki, the only County batsman to reach 1,000 runs this term, went on the stroke of the interval, pushing forward and caught at short-leg by Chris Nash.
However, Moeen was aggrieved at his dismissal as he was adjudged to have got the faintest of inside edges to England’s Matt Prior at slip.
Worcestershire made a useful start to their first-innings reply with captain Daryl Mitchell and Cameron putting on 64 before the latter was well bowled by Will Adkin for 35.
Mitchell went for 36, trapped lbw by Anyon, to leave the County on 99-3 before Moeen’s rough justice saw the New Road side fall to 99-4.
Teenage all-rounder Aneesh Kapil went for just one as Worcestershire focused on reaching the follow-on target of 226 as they required a further 110 runs with five wickets in hand.
Out-of-form Alexei Kervezee and Gareth Andrew put on a 73-run stand to help set about achieving that goal before the latter was bowled by Panesar.
He also claimed the wicket of Ben Scott with the final ball of the day as Worcestershire closed on 199-7 with Kervezee unbeaten on 52 and the County requiring a further 27 runs to avoid the follow-on.