Haider Ali, Leus du Plooy and Billy Godleman all passed 50, but Derbyshire still have work to do if they are to avoid defeat to Worcestershire at The Incora County Ground.
Matthew Waite passed his previous highest first-class score of 59 to end unbeaten on 109 from 149 balls which took Worcestershire to 473, a lead of 152.
Ben Gibbon shared a stand of 86 from 126 balls, Worcestershire’s highest for the 10th wicket at Derby since 1899, before he was dismissed by fast bowler Zak Chappell who finished with 5 for 69 from 22 overs.
In reply, Billy Godleman, 86, and Haider Ali, 65, shared an opening stand of 134 but Derbyshire lost wickets in clusters and closed on 269 for 6, 117 ahead, with skipper Leus du Plooy unbeaten on 52.
Worcestershire’s prospects of such a sizeable lead appeared slim when Brett D’Oliveira was run out in the second over of the day.
He had added only two to his overnight 87 after he came back for a third run and was stranded when Brooke Guest relayed Anuj Dal’s throw to the bowler’s end leaving the Worcestershire skipper stranded.
D’Oliveira departed kicking the air in anger but if Waite thought he was to blame, he more than made up for it with the best innings of his career.
With the help of the lower order and some generous assistance from Derbyshire who persisted with short-pitched tactics for too long, Waite transformed a decent advantage into a potentially decisive one.
Both Jack Leach and Josh Tongue were caught at leg gully by Wayne Madsen, one of them a blinder, but from then on Derbyshire’s morning went pear shaped.
Gibbon lobbed a bouncer from Suranga Lakmal to short midwicket but it was signalled a no ball and that cost 75 runs.
Waite pulled Ben Aitchison for two consecutive fours to take the lead into three figures before he cut the left-arm spin of Leus du Plooy for his 14th four to bring up his century from 143 balls.
The fact that all the Derbyshire players applauded showed just how well Waite had played from the moment he came in with his team still in arrears.
Gibbon was by no means a sleeping partner, pulling Matt Lamb’s leg spin for six and driving him through the covers for another boundary before Chappell finally put an end to Derbyshire’s frustration.
A chipped catch to midwicket gave Chappell his fifth wicket, making him the 14th Derbyshire player to take five in an innings on debut, although few in the home dressing room would have been in the mood to celebrate.
It was now a case of how Derbyshire would respond after such a chastening passage of play and they came out as if determined to wipe out the deficit before tea.
This was Billyball take two as Godleman and Haider went after Worcestershire from the off, unsettling the bowlers who could not find a consistent line or length.
Godleman was first to his second 50 of the match which came off 55 balls and Haider reeled off some glorious off-side strokes as the pair sailed along at more than five an over.
Haider pulled Waite for six and drove him down the ground for three to reach his first 50 for Derbyshire but two wickets in the last two overs of the session lifted Worcestershire.
Haider was lbw as he pushed forward at D’Oliveira and Brooke Guest was bowled when Leach straightened one to take the off stump.
Godleman and Madsen put Derbyshire in profit but Leach pinned Madsen with a full length ball before Gibbon brought one back to bowl Godleman.
D’Oliveira beat Lamb’s forward push and Dal was lbw to Waite leaving du Plooy as Derbyshire’s best hope of setting a challenging target.
Derbyshire’s Zak Chappell said: “It’s a shame we’re not in a better position in the game but to get five wickets is a nice milestone for me personally.
“The pitch is relatively flat, there’s a little bit of nip but it’s quite slow nip. I thought they bowled well that last couple of sessions, we introduced a couple of different ploys like bouncer theories this morning which had some rewards although it didn’t go quite as we wanted it but we did get wickets.
“I think every run is as precious as possible,we feel like we can put pressure on Worcestershire and we’ve no doubt that we are going for a win in this game. It might not be the largest total but pressure does funny things to people and everyone knows that.”
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