Hundreds from Rishi Patel and Wiaan Mulder steered Leicestershire to a draw against Sussex after being asked to follow on, preserving their unbeaten record in Division Two of the LV= Insurance County Championship.
Dismissed for 270 in reply to their opponents’ 430, they looked to be in trouble at 65 for four as Sussex chased a second win of the season.
But after Patel had made 100 from 157 balls, the third century of a season he began with none to his name, South African all-rounder Mulder saw them to safety with an unbeaten 102 to go with his five wickets in the Sussex innings.
He had valuable support from young all-rounder Tom Scriven, who contributed 51 not out to a seventh-wicket stand worth an unbroken 99 in 23 overs before the teams shook hands on a draw with 20 overs unbowled and Leicestershire 135 runs in front.
Sussex’s four-man seam attack had their moments, with 21-year-old Henry Crocombe looking sharp at times.
But with Ari Karvelas and Brad Currie both making their first appearances of the season, they could not find the outstanding individual performance that was probably needed to fashion a victory – and they missed two chances to dismiss Patel before he had reached fifty.
Leicestershire had looked in danger of succumbing to the kind of rapid disintegration to which they were prone last year when a solid start to their follow on was wrecked by the loss of four quick wickets midway through the morning session.
Six without loss overnight, having failed by just 11 runs to meet the avoidance target on Saturday, they advanced to 48 without too many alarms in the first 40 minutes of play on the final morning, dealing relatively comfortably with a new-ball attack of Karvelas and Currie.
But after a major let-off when an edge offered by Patel on 27 was put down by third slip Tom Clark, the next eight overs saw them lose four wickets for nine runs, slipping from 56 without loss to 65 for four.
Sol Budinger slashed Fynn Hudson-Prentice into the hands of the fielder at point, the opener getting a send-off from the Sussex fielders that seemed to prompt a warning from the umpires, immediately followed back by captain Lewis Hill as Crocombe did enough to induce an edge to first-slip Tom Alsop.
Colin Ackermann, who scored 298 runs in his first four innings of the season but just 34 in his most recent five, faced 25 balls before he was leg before to Karvelas, getting only half forward.
Then Currie claimed the wicket that Sussex hoped would be key, delivering a beauty to pass Peter Handscomb’s defensive bat and hit the Australian’s off stump.
With Leicestershire still 95 behind, Sussex tails were up, yet they missed another chance to dismiss Patel when he was dropped at first slip on 47 off Currie, who also had a strong appeal for leg before against him turned down in his next over.
The home side were still up against it at lunch, 69 in arrears, yet there was always a suspicion that a Sussex attack lacking both Ollie Robinson and Nathan McAndrew might struggle to bowl Leicestershire out twice, especially in improving weather conditions and with their opponents concerned only with saving the game.
Indeed, the two chances created but not taken against Patel began to look costly indeed as the tall right-hander went on to complete a third century of a season in which, in Division Two, only the Sussex captain Cheteshwar Pujara has more than his 517 runs.
It was by no means flawless, quite apart from the two drops, but on the occasions he made good contact with the ball it could go a long way without much obvious muscle behind it.
This could be witnessed in three sixes, one back over the head of Karvelas, another lofted over the leg-side boundary off Hudson-Prentice, the other over long-on off spinner James Coles.
After reaching the milestone off 154 balls with his 16th four, Patel rather gave his wicket away, pushing at a ball from Currie in the same over that he had no need to play, giving first slip a comfortable catch. Nonetheless, his partnership with Mulder had added 122 runs, a sizeable stride towards safety.
Yet when Rehan Ahmed was out three overs later, brilliantly caught by a diving Steve Smith at second slip off Crocombe, Leicestershire were vulnerable again, six down and just 36 in front, and with 43 overs still remaining.
Another setback in the 10 overs remaining before tea would have buoyed Sussex still further but in the end it was Leicestershire’s rediscovered resilience that prevailed.
Mulder, who made 689 Championship runs last season but came into this match with a top score of 11 in six innings this year, followed his five first-innings wickets by regaining his touch with the bat.
And it was he as much as Patel who was the game-saver, facing 167 balls and going to his hundred with his 16th four, his 15th having come off the one over bowled by Smith.