Surrey 268 (Burns 122) and 70 for 0 need a further 202 to beat Worcestershire 336 and 203 (Fell 89)
After such a season of dominance, this may have been the last place Surrey would have expected to find themselves in a fight, so it is a great credit to Worcestershire that if they are to leave here with a ninth straight win and the title in their pockets they will have earned it.
Home supporters were grumbling, having seen Worcestershire's last eight wickets fall for 49 - five of them to the redoubtable Morne Morkel - but it still left Surrey needing 272 to win. No other team has required Surrey to chase as many fourth-innings runs this season. Having left The Oval with a draw in May, Worcestershire can therefore see themselves as having been their toughest opponents.
Goodness knows, Worcestershire might yet win the game, which would set off some tremors of anxiety among the others fighting to avoid relegation. It is probably unlikely, frankly, with Surrey 70 without loss overnight, and for all Ben Twohig's promise, Worcestershire would fancy themselves rather more with a Ravi Ashwin or a Moeen Ali to exploit a turning pitch. But there is still time for a twist or two yet.
Surrey's task task would have been somewhat easier but for Tom Fell, who supplemented his first-innings 69, which he had made in the most difficult conditions of the match, with another gutsy performance, making 89. He shared an opening partnership of 65 with Daryl Mitchell and enjoyed some strong support again from the debutant Ollie Westbury.
Fell has not made a first-class hundred for more than three years, a period in which he has undergone treatment for testicular cancer, and for that reason alone the home crowd were willing him to find those 11 more runs.
Morkel did for all their hopes, unfortunately. Surrey may be the team of homegrown talent but the South African has been a major component of the title-chasing machine. In eight matches, he has 50 wickets, a landmark he reached with a brilliant spell of controlled fast bowling in the pleasant afternoon sunshine that yielded his fourth five-wicket haul for the county.
All five came within the space of 38 deliveries either side of tea, Fell falling to what became the last ball of the afternoon session when Morkel bowled a beauty to clip the top of off-stump, having found the edge of Alex Milton's bat in the previous over.
Ross Whiteley, Ed Barnard and Wayne Parnell followed in swift order after tea, all pretty much beaten for pace. "He bowled brilliantly and showed why he has been such a fantastic bowler over the past 10 or 15 years," Fell said. "He was a bit too good for us unfortunately and probably changed the game."
Amar Virdi exploited the turn in the pitch with 3 for 73 and Worcestershire's 203 all out was a disappointment, having been 154 for 2. Last-day runs are often the hardest, though, and although Rory Burns and Mark Stoneman came through 20 overs with their wickets intact and the target down to just over 200, a good morning for Worcestershire could make for a tense afternoon and batting on this surface is not straightforward, as Burns discovered on 3 when he inside-edged a ball from Parnell that narrowly missed his leg stump.
Worcestershire had the upper hand on the third morning, after all, as Surrey's plan to add a couple more batting points to their overnight position yielded only one as their last four wickets fell for 55.
Burns built on his fourth hundred of the season but not by as much as he would have liked, miscuing a pull to be caught at mid-on when he had reached 122. His was the ninth wicket to fall after Ben Foakes, coming in at No. 9 after feeling ill on Tuesday, had been caught at gully for 13. Foakes, still poorly, was off the field thereafter, Ollie Pope keeping wicket.
Worcestershire have their fitness worries too. Joe Clarke has struggled with back spasms, adding to Worcestershire's worries ahead of Vitality Blast Finals Day on Saturday. They are already without Martin Guptill, who made a major contribution to their success in the early part of the competition, after a hamstring injury forced the New Zealander to cancel his projected return. Brett D'Oliveira has missed this match, also with a back problem.
Parnell will play despite splitting the webbing on his right hand and Ben Cox will return after being dropped from this match. Nottinghamshire have cleared Luke Wood to play on loan, as he did in the group stage, and Moeen Ali is available.