Kent took six LV= Insurance County Championship Division 1 points back to Canterbury as they batted out the final day to draw with Somerset at Taunton on Friday.
The visitors were bowled out for 235 after Somerset had declared on their first-innings total on an overnight 404-4, Joe Denly making a priceless 73 to guide his side from a perilous 31-4.
Skipper Tom Abell was the pick of the home bowling attack with 4-52 while Lewis Gregory claimed 3-49.
Trailing by 169 and faced with a possible 41 overs in their second innings, Kent made a better fist of things and were 44-2 when the players shook hands at 4.30pm. They took six points from the game in their battle for survival, Somerset claiming 12.
A declaration offered the hosts their only chance of winning the match - and it soon looked more than an outside bet as Kent lost four wickets in the first 10.3 overs of the day, Gregory taking three of them.
Gregory had Ben Compton caught behind pushing forward, Daniel Bell-Drummond pouched at mid-wicket off a full toss and Jack Leaning leg-before in a seven-over opening spell of 3-30 that included four no-balls.
Jack Brooks (1-33), on his final Somerset appearance, weighed in with the wicket of Tawanda Muyeye, well caught low down by Andy Umeed at second slip, and there was clear evidence of help for the seamers in a pitch which retained a tinge of greenness.
The visitors’ need for batting points saw them bat positively in adversity, aided by an unusually wayward three overs from New Zealand’s Neil Wagner (1-58), which cost 32 runs, mainly due to over-pitching.
Denly and Harry Finch added 54 in 10.1 overs before the latter nicked a drive off seamer Abell through to wicketkeeper James Rew for 26.
Denly was severe on anything around half-volley length, producing a string of well-timed straight and cover drives to move to 40 by lunch, which was taken at 110-5.
The afternoon session began well for Kent with Marcus O’Riordan providing good support for Denly, who went to a precious half-century off 74 balls with eight fours. The pair built on the score with increasing confidence and had added 71 in 17.2 overs when O’Riordan fell lbw for 35, moving across his stumps to a delivery from Abell.
Still, it seemed Kent might avoid the follow-on and perhaps notch a batting point until a clatter of wickets with the total on 200 saw Abell gain another leg-before decision to remove Denly before striking again four balls later, bowling Jas Singh for a duck.
With no addition to the score, Joey Evison, who had batted well for his 23, pulled a short ball from Wagner to Tom Banton at square-leg.
Michael Hogan, injured bowling on the first day, walked out with Finch as his runner and contributed 19 to a last-wicket stand of 35 with Arafat Bhuiyan before having his stumps scattered by Abell.
Tea was taken before Compton and Muyeye launched the Kent follow-on, knowing their side had garnered only one bonus point from the match and desperate to ensure five for the draw.
There was greater assurance to their batting second time around but, with the total on 34-0 in the 11th over, Davey (1-17) had Muyeye well caught by the diving Abell at third slip for 24.
Compton edged a ball from Wagner (1-1) that left him through to Rew but, by then, the draw was inevitable and, after one over from occasional spinner Banton (0-0), the players shook hands.
“It was a messy week for us really with the weather and the disappointing performance on day one but, in the end, we have shown a good spirit,” said Kent head coach Matt Walker.
“It’s not an easy game to evaluate. I actually thought we batted pretty well today, even though we couldn’t get beyond the follow-on mark.
“We saw some classic Joe Denly and his was a really important innings for us.
“He started the season like it was going to be a big one for him, but it hasn’t worked out that way and it was great to see him playing as we know he can.”
With Warwickshire blasting their way to a second-innings 58 for an eight-wicket victory against Middlesex inside 10 overs after another delay at Lord’s, Kent are a point ahead of the second-bottom team in the battle to avoid the drop. Bottom side Northamptonshire are already relegated.
Kent finish their summer against Lancashire at Canterbury from Tuesday.
Looking ahead to the Lancashire encounter, Walker added: “We must approach it as a game we have to win, whether or not that proves the case.
“Michael Hogan will not be available after his injury here but we have two spinners [Aron Nijjar and Yuzvendra Chahal] fresh to come into the side and, whoever plays, we will need two or three big performances – preferably more.
“Sam Billings will be available but that doesn’t mean he will be selected. Harry Finch has done really well for us and I don’t foresee many changes to the batting line-up.”