Ben Cox’s 65 kept Worcestershire from full capitulation as he held together an innings struggling against the onslaught of Hampshire’s trio of experienced seamers on a day where the hosts took command of this match.
Cox batted with controlled urgency, counterattacking some dangerous bowling in similar fashion, which appeared the best option with the hosts on top of the game.
He favoured square of the wicket on both sides with barely a shot straight, forming a 76-run partnership with Ed Barnard.
Cox made his half-century from 56 balls but fell tamely on 65 — the ninth time he has been dismissed in the sixties in first-class cricket — drawn into a pull by Brad Wheal during a period of sustained short bowling, with mid-wicket offered a simple catch.
He had arrived in the middle with his side teetering at 83-6, still 57 runs short of avoiding the follow-on, after a very good morning for the Hampshire bowlers.
Nightwatchman Josh Tongue played a loose drive in the second over and nicked off before Daryl Mitchell, who survived two drops by Lewis McManus, flashed hard and edged to Sam Northeast who completed the catch on the second attempt.
Travis Head survived an edge just wide of first slip but never looked comfortable, Northeast taking a sharp catch at fourth slip. And Worcestershire were six down when Joe Clarke was beaten for pace by Gareth Berg on a good-looking 20.
It took just eight balls after lunch to dislodge George Rhodes, lbw to Kyle Abbott, and once Cox departed the innings was promptly wrapped up.
Joe Leach was drawn into pulling and Gareth Berg needed not move at deep mid-wicket. And when Liam Dawson had Barnard slog sweeping to mid-wicket — the first and only wicket by a spinner so far — Worcestershire were all out for 211, 79 runs adrift.
Jimmy Adams was handed a life first ball of Hampshire’s second innings, edging a loose drive to third slip where Joe Clarke spilled a waist-height chance.
He and Lewis McManus started brightly, McManus crashing a six over fine leg in just the sixth over, but a chaotic four balls soon after kept Worcestershire in contention.
Tongue got one to lift on McManus, who could only edge behind, and next ball Leach had Adams trapped plumb in front. Northeast strode to the crease and having opened his tally with a crisp straight drive he played inside his second delivery and was castled, leaving Hampshire 51-3.
After heaps of style on the first day, James Vince played a scratchy and brief cameo, nailing one cover drive but — such is his way — soon leaving his bat outside off and edging to second slip.
Rilee Rossouw came out swinging and crashed five boundaries, but on 29 played all around one trying to hit straight — a near mirror image of his first innings duck — and lost off stump. Curiously, that is his third highest score in the Specsavers County Championship, averaging 18.8; Hampshire’s investment in him is yet to pay dividends.
Dawson had appeared well-set alongside Hashim Amla, the pair adding 40 for the fifth wicket, but he was pinned lbw by Leach for 16.
Berg played in similar style to his aggressive first innings but was lbw for ten and next ball Abbott called through for a single but a direct hit from Tom Fell left Amla short of his ground.
Abbott and Wheal saw Hampshire through to the close 242 ahead and the lead already looks like it will be a difficult ask for Worcestershire’s batsmen on a wicket favouring seam.