Nottinghamshire 92 for 2 (Slater 49*, Clarke 25*, Bamber 2-33) trail Middlesex 366 (Higgins 137, Eskinazi 58, Yadav 56, Hutton 5-94) by 274 runs
In a match they may need to win to avoid an instant return to Division Two in the LV= Insurance County Championship, Middlesex have at least given themselves a chance after all-rounder Ryan Higgins became only their second player to make a century this season.
Higgins held Middlesex's first innings together with 137 - his first hundred for the county - sharing partnerships of 61 with Stephen Eskinazi and 108 with Jayant Yadav. Their total of 366 gave them three potentially precious batting bonus points, more than doubling their tally for the season, before Nottinghamshire responded with 92 for 2, of which Ben Slater has 49 not out.
But Kent, who began the final round of matches one point in front of Middlesex in the battle to avoid the one relegation place still undecided, are all but certain to at least match those three batting points against Lancashire in Canterbury, having already secured three for bowling.
That means that unless Kent lose to Lancashire, Middlesex will have to beat Nottinghamshire - the team promoted with them last season - to ensure it is they rather than Kent who stay up.
Brett Hutton finished with 5 for 94, taking him to 60 wickets for the season, picking up a wicket with his fourth ball of the day to break the overnight partnership between Higgins and John Simpson, the latter falling leg before getting only half-forward.
The dismissal brought immediate confirmation that Eskinazi was none the worse for the blow to the head that had forced his retirement on day one.
Eskinazi emerged to resume an innings interrupted on 23, looking purposeful with an early boundary pushed through the covers after Simpson and Higgins had added 70, with another 61 runs accrued before Dane Paterson pinned Eskinazi in front for 58, a first half-century of the season by a batter whose form has been part of a collective malaise afflicting Middlesex.
The best ball of a testing second spell by Hutton accounted for Josh De Caires via a thin edge to 'keeper Tom Moores, leaving Middlesex in danger at 241 for 6. Thankfully for their survival chance, Higgins found an ally who could stick with him in Yadav, who had been out in single figures in the first four innings of his short-term deal but this time played beautifully for his 56.
The Indian off-spinner timed his drives and cuts perfectly, throwing in a couple of meaty pulls among his eight boundaries, lightening the burden of responsibility on Higgins just enough to allow the former Gloucestershire right-hander to stay faithful to the tempo that had served him well to that point.
It took him to 99 at lunch, from which he returned keen not to linger long on that nervous mark, looking unsuccessfully for a single off each of the first five balls of Dane Paterson's first over of the afternoon before beating the infield with a push that carried all the way to the boundary at wide mid-on, joining Sam Robson as the only two Middlesex batters to post hundreds in 2023.
The sixth over with the second new ball ended the partnership when Yadav played around one from Jake Ball to be leg before. The downfall of Higgins came two overs later with a misjudgement, an attempt to scamper a single into the offside off Ball, who stopped the ball with his boot, causing Higgins to hesitate mid-pitch and not quite recommit to the run. It was long enough for Ball to stoop, gather and throw down the stumps at the bowler's end with the batter still not home.
In between, Toby Roland-Jones had been struck in front trying to work Hutton, who wrapped things up by having Ethan Bamber caught at second slip, thus completing his sixth five-wicket haul in an outstanding season.
With ball in hand, Bamber dismissed Haseeb Hameed via a thin edge to Simpson and Steven Mullaney courtesy of a tight leg before call inside his first five overs, but Slater and Joe Clarke have added 57 for the third wicket, despite Slater suffering what looked like a painful blow on the hip.
Bad light and rain cost another 25 overs, following 54 on day one.