LV= COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP DIVISION ONE, Old Trafford:
CLOSE OF PLAY, DAY THREE: Lancashire 253 & 319, Warwickshire 254 & 52-3
(Warwicks 5 pts, Lancs 5 pts)
Saj Mahmood's highest score in 12 Championship knocks last year was 30
Saj Mahmood shared a last-wicket stand of 77 in 12 overs with Glen Chapple to help Lancashire set Warwickshire a daunting 319 to win at Old Trafford.
The former England Test number eight hit a swashbuckling 52, his first half-century for Lancashire since 2005.
And home skipper Chapple made his second of the match (53no) to help the hosts to a second-innings total of 319.
Mahmood then added the prize wicket of England batsman Ian Bell, lbw for nine, as the Bears closed on 52-3.
Warwickshire's other England Test batsman Jonathan Trott also went cheaply, for the second time in the match, as the Bears ended day three still 267 short of victory with just seven wickets standing.
Mahmood went through a purple patch of scoring seven boundaries in 10 balls on his way to 52 off 41 as he took a liking to leg-spinner Imran Tahir and England Lions colleague Chris Woakes.
That came after Lancashire, 84-2 overnight, had slumped to 113-6 on Saturday morning.
Stephen Moore did not add to his overnight 43 as the Lancashire debutant became one of three victims for Neil Carter, who also removed Ashwell Prince and nightwatchman Jimmy Anderson.
Carter, who had removed opener Smith the night before and was also later to have Steven Croft caught by Trott at third man, finished with an impressive 5-79 from 26 overs.
Saj Mahmood celebrates getting the key wicket of Ian Bell late in the day
By then, Croft had hit his second fifty of the match, leading the home recovery in a seventh-wicket partnership of 84 with Luke Sutton (33).
And there was more to come as, from 242-9, Mahmood reached his half-century in 38 balls, including a straight six off Imran, who then had his revenge when he had him caught at short leg by Varun Chopra to end the assault.
Chopra was soon in the action again when he was trapped lbw by Chapple in the sixth over for six. And Lancashire knew they were on top when man-of-the-moment Mahmood and Smith got key duo Bell and Trott before the 22nd over was up.
Ian Westwood (24no) and Jim Troughton need to navigate Sunday's first hour safely if the Bears are to turn this one round.
BBC Radio Lancashire's Scott Read offers his day three assessment:
A terrific day's cricket which turned one way and then the other, looked at one stage hard to predict. It looks a little clearer now.
Warwickshire off to a blistering start, thanks to five wickets from Neil Carter but, after the groundwork was put in by Steven Croft, the headlines might fall to Saj Mahmood.
His 52 in a last-wicket partnership worth 77 with Glen Chapple was well received by the Lancashire fans, with some wonderful shots to all parts of the ground.
Mahmood will enjoy his evening, but knows there is work to do with the ball in the morning when Lancashire will start as favourites to win.
BBC WM's Mike Taylor gives his thoughts on the state of the match:
Warwickshire are now in serious danger of opening the season with successive Championship defeats, having been in competitive positions throughout against Yorkshire last week and looked on course for a three-day win against Lancashire here.
Their dramatic loss of control against the Lancashire tail says much about their lack of bowling strength.
Neil Carter and Chris Woakes owed the Bears nothing after outstanding long spells on Saturday morning but the support bowling was tepid and Imran Tahir's leg spin inoccuous.
The flagging Carter had to be called back to try to close out the Lancashire innings before it got out of hand. The longer his career goes on the more Warwickshire seem to rely on him.
The target is not impossible but after the loss of Bell and Trott in the final session it appears particularly tough.
Ian Westwood at least set an example by clinging on and there is always a chance that this unpredictable match may have one more twist.