Middlesex 356 and 111/4 (Eskinazi 45) lead Hampshire 438 (Rossouw 99, Carberry 98) by 29 runs
A good third day for Hampshire has left county champions Middlesex in grave danger of their first Championship defeat since 2015.
The visitors closed 111-4, leading by 29 runs, after Stevie Eskinazi threw his wicket away with a wild cut to give Hampshire a very real chance of a second win in as many matches this season.
Having been bowled out for 438, Hampshire took three early wickets in the evening session thanks to a ferocious spell of bowling from South African Kyle Abbott.
Sam Robson was the first to go on eight, caught behind attempting to defend an in-swinger, before a peach of a delivery squared up Nick Gubbins on 11 with Jimmy Adams doing the honours at second slip.
Brad Wheal took over from Abbott and, in his second over, bowled the ball of the day to dismiss Dawid Malan, who left a relatively wide delivery that cut back in and took the top of off.
Eskinazi and Adam Voges offered resistance to keep the visitors from falling too far by the wayside, with some cracking shots by both batsmen – including two crisp straight drives from Voges off Liam Dawson, one having advanced down the track, to take the lead.
But in the antepenultimate over of the day, Eskinazi flashed hard at Abbott and was caught behind on 45 to leave Middlesex needing something special from their middle order.
Earlier, it was dual heartbreak for Rilee Rossouw and Michael Carberry, who fell agonisingly short of richly deserved centuries.
Rossouw chipped a bone in his left hand dropping a catch on the opening day and was hit again early in his innings. He looked in extreme discomfort throughout – even loudly exclaiming in pain shortly before lunch.
But he battled on, looking in strong touch as he repeatedly found the boundary, often favouring the reverse sweep which he executed well.
He put on 80 with Abbott, who also looked good for his 56, as Hampshire took a lead and looked to push the game on.
Rossouw advanced to Ollie Rayner shortly after bringing up a 77-ball half-century and carted him over the ten rows of seats at mid wicket.
As he and Gareth Berg – who played a cool hand for his 43 – upped the tempo, Rossouw looked ever-more confident. He produced just one real chance on 76 when Malan, at cover, dropped one of the easiest catches he will ever be given.
The South African made his way to 98 and had just the injured Fidel Edwards – with Liam Dawson as a runner – left to accompany him, but denied himself his first Hampshire century with a brainless run out.
Having flicked into the leg side, Rossouw instantly called for a non-existent two and he was unable to beat Sam Robson’s throw to the wicketkeeper.
It was a strange and perhaps comical end to an entertaining and remarkable innings from a man who looked in absolute agony for almost all of his time at the crease.
It compounded a so-close-but-yet-so-far day as earlier Michael Carberry, who batted so magnificently yesterday, fell just two short of his first Championship hundred since recovering from a cancerous tumour.
He resumed on 84 and continued his patient approach, leaving and blocking and showing no real desire to accelerate the scoring.
Having made his way to 98 Carberry, two balls after edging through the slips, played a loose drive outside off and nicked behind off Tim Murtagh.
It was a tragic end to an otherwise fantastic innings, the dismissal one of the only bad shots he played in his six-hour knock, and there was a palpable sense of disappointment around The Ageas Bowl as he departed to a standing ovation.
Though Carberry may not have reached three-figures on this occasion, his performance suggests it will not be too long to wait.
And if Hampshire can turn this match into a win, both Carberry and Rossouw can perhaps take comfort in knowing that they have helped their side into a commanding position just two games into the new season.