Liam Dawson and Adam Wheater helped Hampshire escape with a draw against Warwickshire at the Ageas Bowl.
Hampshire had been put on the ropes by four quick wickets in the afternoon session but the pair batted to save the game for the hosts.
Warwickshire were in a great position to attempt to force a result after Ian Bell further helped his England Test recall by scoring an impressive 174.
The Warwickshire captain notched up 44 morning runs with a masterclass of field piercing shots – showcasing reverse sweeps, cover drives and the rest of his repertoire.
He reached 150 in 268 balls and looked to attack the ball to push the score moving and put pressure on Hampshire.
At the other end the visitors lost their first wicket of the day, Rikki Clarke was on the wrong end of a Adam Wheater stunner, as the keeper dove low to his right to grab an outside edge.
Bell was the next to fall as he skied Ryan McLaren to James Vince at mid-on.
Off-spinner Dawson had bowled brilliantly on day three and finally got the wicket his tight-fisted deserved – Jeetan Patel’s pole knocked back.
Boyd Rankin was the last to depart as he copied his captain and lofted one to Vince – Warwickshire ending on 360, with a lead of 158.
Hampshire wobbled in their effort to save the game, as Warwickshire’s bowling attack shared the wickets.
Keith Barker got two while Clarke, Patel and Rankin all grabbed a scalp each, with the latter picking up his sixth of the match – the visitors getting their tails up.
Fast bowler Barker was the first to strike as Michael Carberry edged to Varun Chopra at first slip, before Sam Hain pulled off a close catch to get rid of Tom Alsop – giving Rankin his wicket.
Spinner Patel caused problems throughout the session, with regualar oohs and ahhs when the ball gripped and got his reward when he had Will Smith leg before. The hosts were left in more trouble when skipper James Vince was also out lbw to Clarke.
Barker ended the game with match figures of seven for 83 – his last victim Sean Ervine.
But keeper Wheater and all-rounder Dawson took over and guided Hampshire into a lead.
And hands were finally shaken just before 6pm, as Liam Dawson reached a half century to salvage a draw – Hampshire nabbing what could be a useful nine points, Warwickshire collecting 12 to kick-start their title bid.
Warwickshire captain Ian Bell notched a classy century to grind down Hampshire on the third day of the Specsavers County Championship game at the Ageas Bowl.
England batsman Bell showcased every shot in the book on a sun kissed south coast as he completed his 51st first-class ton, a day after he turned 34.
Bell, who was complemented by Chris Woakes’ half century, took his Warwickshire side into a lead of 81 going into the final day.
It was not all plain sailing for the visitors as they lost both openers in 4.2 overs – to skiddy fast bowler Fidel Edwards.
The West Indian managed to boom one back to Ian Westwood’s legs. Two overs later Varun Chopra was pinned in front to leave Warwickshire ten for two.
Bell, along with Jonathan Trott, added 49 for the third wicket before the latter chased edged James Vince to Sean Ervine at first slip.
Sam Hain also looked to build a big partnership with his skipper but could also only put on 49 with Bell before following a legside Ryan McLaren delivery behind – before Tim Ambrose chipped to Tom Alsop at mid-wicket.
Bell meanwhile, now joined by Woakes, looked unfazed by any of the Hampshire bowling – who were one light after debutant Reece Topley’s broken hand from day one.
He reached 50 in 68 balls but laboured towards three figures, needing over double the balls to reach the 218 ton.
The passage from 90 to 100 was the most watchful needing 44 before rocking onto his back foot and pulling through mid-wicket to start the season in the best way, on a ground he has bagged two Test hundreds.
Woakes brought up his fifty in 128 deliveries, with the pair putting on 151 before he fell lbw on 66 to Edwards to the finally ball of the day.
Earlier Hampshire had been bowled out for 202, to collect a single batting points, as Warwickshire took the two quick wickets needed – after rain prevent play during the whole of day two.
South African top scorer McLaren played on for 85, before Edwards skied one to fine leg on the ropes – both out to Rikki Clarke.
While a positive result looks unlikely on day four, the weather is set to stay fair for a second day in a row.
Warwickshire were frustrated by the weather as no play was able to take place on day two of their Specsavers County Championship clash with Hampshire.
Umpires Steve O’Shaughnessy and Martin Saggers twice inspected the sodden outfield with the hope of some action, but despite a dry afternoon they decided the pitch could not dry quickly enough.
Birthday boy Ian Bell, 34 today, will be hoping to bag the final two Hampshire wickets quickly in the morning to keep hope of a win alive.
The hosts’ Ryan McLaren is also eager to get back out to the middle on Tuesday, as he remains on an unbeaten 84 for a second night, 16 short of a first Championship ton.
Hampshire had been rocked in the morning by the news Reece Topley broke his hand batting on the first day – and could miss a month of action.
Fast bowler Topley, who is making his debut from Essex in this match, was key to his county’s rear guard action by putting on 51 with McLaren – himself scoring a first-class high of 15.
He was struck on his right hand by Boyd Rankin early in his innings, with a specialist checking whether the injury is just a single or double fracture just below the knuckle.
Tuesday is set to see more dry spells, although there is still a chance of rain all day.
Warwickshire fast bowler Keith Barker sliced through the Hampshire top order with a five wicket haul to give the visitors the upper hand on the opening day of the Specsavers County Championship season at the Ageas Bowl.
Barker became the first man to reach the milestone in 2016, he ended the day with figures of 5-44 – before Hampshire reached 189 for eight, thanks mainly to a patient rearguard knock of 84 not out by Ryan McLaren.
Seamer Barker was given the best possible start on a green-tinged swinging pitch, when under the new regulations Ian Bell elected to bowl without a toss.
And he rewarded his captain with a wicket in his 13th delivery, a beautiful ball which caught the edge of Michael Carberry’s bat before stinging Tim Ambrose’s gloves.
Just five deliveries later, the same combination came together to see off young opener Tom Alsop, who tickled an inside edge through to the keeper.
Barker notched the third of his ferocious opening spell from the Hotel End when Will Smith tapped straight to short-leg Sam Hain. Boyd Rankin took over from the wicket taking end and found James Vince mistiming a leading edge to Hain in the covers.
Barker completed his haul with the wickets of Liam Dawson and Sean Ervine – both lbw – to leave the hosts struggling at 66 for six at lunch.
McLaren led a fight back for the hosts with a stout half century, coming off 88 balls, and was helped by genuine tailenders Reece Topley and James Tomlinson once Adam Wheater had been given out leg before to Rikki Clarke.
McLaren and Topley, a winter recruit from Essex, put on a watchful 51 to build a platform and slow the fall of wickets. Topley departed for a first-class best of 15, beating his previous high of 12, when he was comprehensively bowled by England bowler Chris Woakes.
But Tomlinson continued where Topley left off with an unbeaten stand of 51 – although the Hampshire man was given two lifelines. First he was dropped by a sloppy Jeetan Patel at second slip before Varun Chopra put down a sharp chance at gully in the next over – both with the batsman on 12.
Dark clouds and imminent rain called an early end to the first day of the season – with Hampshire 11 runs shy of an unlikely batting point.
Barker said after the day’s play: “It was a brilliant start for me, I couldn’t have asked for anything better.
“The lads have bowled really well and stayed in there. We have scrapped quite a bit and they made it quite difficult for us towards the end of the day.
“But we would have taken that score before the start of the day, things are looking good.”