PAUL Coughlin rose manfully to the challenge of leading the Durham attack against Northamptonshire, only to be let down by dropped catches.

He still emerged with his first five-wicket haul, finishing with five for 49 in 27 overs as Northants totalled 338 to lead by 172. In 22 overs Durham reached 78 for one in their second innings.

Coughlin said: “If we have a good day and get past their total anything in the fourth innings is going to be tough to chase.

“I quite enjoyed the challenge of being one of the most experienced bowlers. I think pressure situations bring the best out of me and I’m very pleased with my first five-for.”

Max Holden's maiden century in only his sixth first-class game left Durham kicking themselves for dropping him twice early on the second day at Chester-le-Street.

Once the England Under 19 captain, on loan from Middlesex, had departed for a gritty 124 Northamptonshire lost all their last three wickets on 338.

Resuming on 19, Holden survived scares from the day's first and seventh balls. After a confident lbw appeal from Barry McCarthy he edged Coughlin at comfortable height to second slip, where Keaton Jennings spilled the chance.

Then on 27 another straightforward catch was missed by Graham Clark at point off McCarthy, but Holden knuckled down and spent 140 balls over his first 50.

With conditions far more benign than on the first day, Durham were made to pay a heavy price for their lapses and three more chances went down as Holden put on 96 for the fifth wicket with Adam Rossington and 162 for the fifth with Josh Cobb.

Rossington hit nine fours in his 59-ball 50 before dabbing wide of off stump at McCarthy to edge to second slip and depart for 65.

He paved the way for Cobb to take advantage of Durham's toils with some belligerent strokes in making 96 off 133 balls.

He hit 11 fours and a six before edging to second slip during a probing new ball spell from Coughlin.

Holden, becalmed on 85, had exasperated Paul Collingwood, who troubled the left-hander with away swingers. And it was one of those which finally found the edge to give Stuart Poynter his fourth catch, ending the youngster's 228-ball vigil.

The importance of his innings was underlined by Northants losing their last five wickets for 11 runs.

With much less assistance than on the first day, the visiting seamers could make little impression, although Ben Sanderson had a big lbw appeal against Stephen Cook.

Badly in need of runs before joining the South African Test squad, Cook was dropped by Rory Kleinveldt at third slip on 16 off Nathan Buck.

After digging in to reach 23 he took a fancy to Rob Keogh's off spin, taking 11 off his first over, only to see Jennings stumped for 27 off Keogh's ninth ball when he tried to paddle him to fine leg and lifted his back foot.

It was a bit of a brainstorm from Jennings with only four overs left, but McCarthy survived as nightwatchman and Cook was on 39 at the close.