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Kane Williamson and Benny Howell started a Gloucestershire fightback that dashed Derbyshire's hopes of an innings victory at Derby.
Howell scored only his second first-class 50 while New Zealand Test batsman Williamson showed his international pedigree with an unbeaten 106 as the visitors closed on 219 for two, a lead of 37, when bad light ended play at 1800 BST.
The prospect of the game going into a fourth day looked remote when Gloucestershire lost their last wicket to be bowled out for 206 and were forced to follow-on 182 runs behind.
With the overcast conditions favouring the seamers, Derbyshire were scenting their third victory of the season when Chris Dent left a ball from Tim Groenewald in the second over and had his off-stump knocked out with only eight on the board.
But the way Paul Muchall and Ian Saxelby had played in the morning when they secured a batting point suggested there were few problems in the pitch and Derbyshire had to wait another 41 overs for their next success.
Howell is playing for a second chance after he was released by Hampshire at the end of last season and the pressure was on the 23-year-old Bordeaux-born right hander after his failure to score in the first innings.
But watched by his father, Howell played calmly and with Williamson growing in confidence, the pair slowly chipped away at the lead against disciplined bowling.
Howell straight drove left-arm spinner David Wainwright for six on his way to a 72-ball 50 and the stand with Williamson was worth 117 when Derbyshire finally broke through.
A slower ball from Jon Clare, who was awarded his Derbyshire cap before play along with Tony Palladino, Martin Guptill and Wes Durston, deceived Howell and beat his back-foot forcing shot.
But Marshall joined Williamson and the pair kept their concentration through several rain breaks to wipe out Derbyshire's advantage and put their side in credit.
Wainwright kept the pressure on and at one stage conceded only seven runs in 12 overs but Williamson made few errors and brought up his second century for Gloucestershire when he cut the former Yorkshire spinner behind point for two.
It had taken him 209 balls to get to three figures but it had given his team a fighting chance of saving the game on the fourth day after he added 94 with Marshall who was on 32 when bad light held up play for the last time.