THE spectre of relegation loomed ever larger for Lancashire when Worcestershire restricted them to only one batting point from their crucial LV= County Championship Division One clash at New Road.
Worcestershire, still with a game in hand, closed the gap at the bottom of the table after dismissing last year's champions for 216 in a draw that came down to a scrap for bonus points.
Gareth Andrew led the way with a season's-best return of four for 42 and Moeen Ali, who captured 12 wickets in last month's win at Old Trafford, polished off the lower order with three for 46.
To darken Lancashire's mood, news then came through that Surrey, another of the counties in the danger area, had snatched a narrow victory over Middlesex.
Now they may need to win two of their last three games if they are to avoid emulating Yorkshire (2002) and Nottinghamshire (2006) in falling out of Division One in the season after winning the championship.
Worcestershire may still be the back-markers but they showed they have the punch in their attack to have a chance of escaping relegation. They have dropped only two bowling points all season and none at all on their own ground.
Replying to the home side's declaration at 251 for seven on Thursday, Lancashire seemed to be laying a solid foundation when Paul Horton and Luke Procter stayed together until the ninth over on the final morning.
There had been few alarms up to that point but as soon as one wicket went down, Horton edging Andrew's second delivery to Daryl Mitchell at second slip, they were wobbling at 47 for three.
Luke Procter moved too far across and lost his leg stump to Alan Richardson and Karl Brown was trapped in front by an inspired Andrew.
This was how the innings continued. Worcestershire attacked non-stop and Lancashire exploited gaps to hit 33 boundaries, but each time a partnership began to develop they would lose a cluster of wickets.
Ashwell Prince fell to the Mitchell-Andrew combination and next Andrea Agathangelou and Steven Croft, who promised more with six fours in his 28, were caught behind in the space of five deliveries from Richardson and Andrew.
Gareth Cross quickly became top scorer with 39 from 38 balls before he was bowled by Joe Leach, giving the young all-rounder his first championship wicket, and Kyle Hogg (14) edged Moeen to slip after a stand of 58.
Lancashire eventually needed some old-fashioned hitting by Glen Chapple (27) and Ajmal Shahzad (28 not out) to scramble a point before Moeen mopped up.
In 50 minutes before the captains shook hands on a draw at 4.50pm, Worcestershire scored 33 without loss in their second innings.