Ben Cox produced an innings of great determination and application to earn Worcestershire CCC a nerve-tingling draw with Derbyshire in the LV=County Championship match at the Incora County Ground.
The County’s wicket-keeper batsman came to the wicket with Worcestershire 72-5 in their second innings with almost 52 overs remaining.
But the 29-year-old led a sterling rearguard action and, with superb support from Ed Barnard and then Club Captain Joe Leach, saw Worcestershire over the finishing line and eight valuable points.
Derbyshire posted seven fielders around the bat for spinner Matt Critchley as the tension towards the game’s finale became almost unbearable.
They were even able to take a second new ball with four overs remaining.
But Cox played out the final over from Critchley with great assurance until the players shook hands with one ball remaining.
He was unbeaten on 60 from 148 balls in an innings spanning 215 minutes as Worcestershire closed on 193-8 from 83.5 overs.
Leach had also played his full part with nine not out from 39 deliveries after Barnard had earlier helped launch the fightback with 35 from 110 balls.
He and Cox more than doubled the score after joining forces at 83-6 in adding 85 and defied the Derbyshire attack for almost 31 overs.
Worcestershire will take 14 points from the match, and it will almost feel like a victory after Derbyshire had been in the ascendancy for lengthy periods.
It was another example of the never say die attitude in the Worcestershire squad after recovering last week against champions Essex from a challenging position to earn another fighting draw.
Worcestershire will reflect on being unable to press home the advantage with the ball on the first day on a green-tinged pitch after winning the toss, and five chances were not held onto.
They then recovered from 135-5 to claim three batting bonus points thanks to excellent knocks from Tom Fell and Riki Wessels and some late hitting by debutant overseas signing Anton Joseph.
Derbyshire were able to press home their first-innings advantage of 85 and set a testing target, and wickets went down at regular intervals until Cox and Barnard came together.
Derbyshire resumed today on 268-5, and the fifth-wicket pair of Harvey Hossein (55 not out) and Fynn Hudson-Prentice (31 not out) added a further 44 runs in 10 overs from Leach and leg spinner Brett D’Oliveira.
The declaration came at 312-5, and Worcestershire were left 398 to chase in a minimum of 84 overs.
Worcestershire openers Jake Libby and Daryl Mitchell added 25 in 12 overs against the new ball before introducing spinner Critchley.
Libby on 12 was dropped at slip by Billy Godleman in Critchley’s first over, but two balls later, Mitchell (8) pushed forward, and the ball lobbed up on the offside.
Godleman quickly made ground around from slip and held onto a diving catch.
Libby (21) played onto a ball which kept low from Hudson-Prentice as Worcestershire reached 33-2 off 18 overs at lunch.
A further 21 runs were added, but then Fell (13), who had looked in good touch, pulled a short ball from Hudson-Prentice into the hands of Ben Aitchinson on the square leg boundary.
Brett D’Oliveira (3) then turned an Aitchinson delivery around the corner and was caught at leg gulley by Hudson-Prentice, who had just been moved in that position.
The in-form Wessels (2) was given out lbw when a ball from Aitchinson nipped back into him at 72-5 in the 33rd over.
An inswinging delivery of full length from Aitchinson accounted for Gareth Roderick (22) leg before and gave him his third wicket.
Cox adopted a positive approach against Critchley, slog sweeping him for four and then collecting another boundary from a more authentic sweep.
New batsman Barnard cut Michael Cohen for four, and the seventh wicket pair saw Worcestershire through to tea at 118-6 with 37 overs remaining.
They continued to provide determined resistance on the resumption, and a half-century stand was completed from 98 balls.
Cox brought up his half-century in superb style with a regal cover drive at the expense of Aitchinson.
It was his eighth boundary, and his fifty came from 78 deliveries.
The partnership was extended to 85 from 30.1 overs before Barnard’s heroic resistance ended when, after making 35 from 110 balls, he went back to Critchley
and was lbw.
Joseph (4) departed in the same manner in Critchley’s next over to leave 14 overs remaining.
But Leach got his head down to lend more solid support to Cox as the overs started to tick off, and Worcestershire’s delight was evident at the conclusion of the game.
Worcestershire head coach Alex Gidman said: “We don’t believe we’ve played as well as we could do in this match.
“However we showed real character and great effort throughout the game which in the end got us over the line for an important draw.
“I thought Derbyshire played extremely well throughout the game, they dictated the game from about 11.30 onwards so they probably earned the right to run it as they believed was fit.
“But I guess in the end you could argue that worked to our advantage right in the final hour.”