HAMPSHIRE will have to set a new Ageas Bowl record if they are to remain in promotion contention going into their final game at Derbyshire.
Jimmy Adams (36no) and Liam Dawson (25no) will begin the final day with Hampshire 73-3, still needing 354 for the win against Essex they need to have any chance of returning to the first division at the first attempt.
The likelihood is that Hampshire will soon have to settle for another season in the second division, particularly as Yorkshire widened the gap between the top two and the rest by completing an eight-wicket win against Glamorgan.
Only once before have Hampshire chased down as many as 427 to win a Championship match (they managed 446 against Gloucestershire at Northlands Road in 1990).
And the bar has been raised significantly higher than their highest successful fourth-innings total at the Ageas Bowl - the 331-5 they made to beat Warwickshire by five wickets in 2007.
That was an innings built around an unbeaten 192 from Michael Carberry. There will be no repeat of that this time.
Carberry (6) was the first to go when Hampshire began their second innings with 21 overs of the penultimate day remaining.
Not for the first time this season, Carberry got underneath an attempted pull and was caught at deep backward square leg in the seventh over.
It has not helped Carberry’s England chances and was the first of three wickets to fall in 12 balls.
Bilal Shafayat (3) was caught behind in the next over and Chambers was on a hat-trick when Simon Katich nicked his next delivery to first slip.
The wicket has flattened out and slowed down significantly since the first day, when Hampshire shot Essex out for just 180.
Having resumed on 217-2, Essex added another 258 before they were eventually bowled out for 475.
Balcombe finished with match figures of 9-106, his best figures since April, and is now division two’s leading wicket-taker by some distance with 57.
Much now rests on Adams, who hit a heroic 168 not out when Hampshire last chased down 400-plus on the final day of Championship match, at Headingley in 2006.