Derbyshire were unable to replicate their Day Two success with the ball, as Sussex lost just two wickets on Day Three at The Incora County Ground.
Sussex skipper Tom Haines batted through the day for an unbeaten 164 from 289 balls and with Indian Test batsman Chateshwar Pujara scoring 57 not out , Sussex closed on 278 for 2 after following on 331 behind.
Haines was also given solid support from Ali Orr who shared an opening stand of 128 in 43 overs before he was removed by Sam Conners who was Derbyshire’s most threatening bowler on a flat pitch.
After Tom Alsopp was run out, Haines and Pujara combined in an unbroken third wicket stand of 133 to leave Sussex trailing by only 53.
With such a commanding lead, it was no surprise that Derbyshire put Sussex back in but the visitors showed much more application and determination after the first innings capitulation.
Although Orr edged Suranga Lakmal just wide of the slip cordon in the first over, Derbyshire’s bowlers struggled to create openings on a pitch that remains a good one for batting.
When a chance did come, it was not taken as Shan Masood failed to cling on one-handed to what would have been a brilliant catch at leg slip off Alex Thomson when Orr was on 13.
Orr dug in, showing good judgement, while Haines played more aggressively to reach 50 from 67 balls by cutting Lakmal for his eighth four.
The pair survived comfortably through to lunch although Derbyshire eased some of the pressure on the batsmen by not posting more close fielders.
Billy Godleman continued to rotate his attack after the interval in search of the breakthrough which finally came 13 overs into the afternoon session.
Orr had left the ball well so it was a surprise when he was caught in two minds and edged Conners behind after battling for just short of three hours.
The fall of one wicket had sparked a Sussex collapse in the first innings but Tom Allsop was settling in until he was the victim of a poor call from his captain.
Haines pushed the ball towards point and set off for a run but Nick Potts’ throw left Alsopp well short of his ground.
It was the last thing Sussex needed but Haines did not allow it to disturb his concentration and he drove Anuj Dal through the covers for his 14th four to complete a fine century, the sixth of his first-class career.
Derbyshire should have removed him on 111 when he cut the left-arm spin of Leus du Plooy to slip but Madsen could not hold onto a sharp chance.
At tea, Sussex had reduced the arrears to 153 and in the final session, Pujara began to time the ball with ominous assurance from a Derbyshire perspective.
Two effortless back foot drives sent the ball racing to the ropes and Derbyshire’s best hope of breaking through rested on the new ball which was taken 16 overs from the close.
But Haines and Pujara stood firm with the skipper reaching his 150 from 256 balls and Pujara brought up his half century by cutting Potts to the boundary.
Sussex still have a lot of work to do to save the game but this was an impressive response in adversity from a young team.
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