Harry Finch’s maiden County Championship hundred put Sussex in a good position against Middlesex after an absorbing second day at Hove.
The 23-year-old from Hastings scored 103 as Sussex recovered from 127 for 6 to 323 in response to Middlesex’s 230.
A first-innings lead of 93 could prove crucial on a pitch which continued to provide assistance for the bowlers and Sussex’s position looked even better when Ollie Robinson took his eighth wicket of the match and David Wiese struck five balls later to reduce Middlesex to 9 for 2. But skipper Dawid Malan and Nick Gubbins battened down the hatches, taking their team to to 64 for 2 at stumps.
Finch said: "I'm so pleased - my first Championship hundred is a day I won't forget in a hurry. When I got into the 80s it was definitely playing on my mind but I stuck to my processes and I guess there was a bit of relief too when I got there. I have played 30-odd first-class matches so to get a Championship hundred is definitely a weight off my shoulders.
"It's been a good day for us. There are periods when the pitch is flat and it's quite easy to score but there is always a ball that does a lot. (Head Coach) Jason Gillespie places a lot of importance on runs down the order and we might not know the value of that lead we got until the last day but I think we're in a good position, especially if we can get early wickets tomorrow."
Sussex had resumed on 60 for 4 but Finch shared important stands of 77 with night-watchman Danny Briggs and then 96 with Michael Burgess before he was eighth out with the total on 242.
Australian Hilton Cartwright pinned Briggs in his first over for 23 and then took out Ben Brown’s off stump before ending the Finch-Burgess alliance shortly after lunch courtesy of a brilliant reflex catch by Sam Robson at first slip. Ollie Rayner at second slip had parried a thick edge from Burgess into the air and Robson dived to take a one-handed catch from the rebound.
Burgess struck the ball nicely through the off side in his 45 while at the other end Finch relied on steady accumulation although he did go on the attack when he pulled Tom Barber for six to reach his fifty.
His century came up with a boundary off Ollie Rayner, the off-spinner, and he had faced 201 balls, with 13 fours, when he was out to a ball from James Harris which was virtually impossible to defend as it nipped back and kept horribly low.
Sussex’s lead was only 12 runs at that stage but Robinson, who had taken 7 for 58 on the first day, enhanced his all-rounder credentials with a rumbustious innings of 52 from 57 balls which included six fours.
It enabled the last two wickets to put on 81 precious runs with last man George Garton contributing a career-best 22 not out including a six to get off the mark.
James Harris picked up the last three wickets to finish with 5 for 86 but Sussex had momentum and they carried it into Middlesex’s second innings.
Briggs pulled off a smart catch at mid-wicket to remove Sam Robson (4) in the second over then Steve Eskanazi feathered an edge off Wiese in the next.
But Malan and Gubbins batted carefully through the remaining 18 overs of the day and will resume tomorrow 29 runs in arrears.