The Plunket Shield frontrunners are facing an uphill battle after the opening day of round six.
Competition leaders Auckland were bowled out for 277 yesterday by Otago at Eden Park Outer Oval, while second-placed Wellington are facing a hefty deficit against Central Districts.
Auckland struggled to find big partnerships in their innings against a well-rounded Otago bowling attack. An 87-run stand between Rob Nicol (60) and Colin De Grandhomme (59) was the highlight, as all-rounder Sam Wells and inexperienced spinner Rhys Phillips took three wickets apiece.
Otago didn't find as many demons in their turn at bat, easing to 60-0 at stumps, with Anaru Kitchen unbeaten on 36 against his former side. An Otago victory would be beneficial to Wellington, but they are facing their own problems after Central Districts reached 317-5 at McLean Park.
Openers Greg Hay (48) and Ben Smith (46) provided a solid platform for CD, but the losses of debutant Mitchell Renwick for a second-ball duck and Will Young for two saw the hosts slump to 103-4.
Tom Bruce came and went with a belligerent 37 from 22 balls, before George Worker and Dane Cleaver took control.
The pair added an unbeaten 169, with Worker on 86 and Cleaver on 85 at the end of play as Central Districts wrestled control of the encounter.
Worker has underachieved in first-class cricket, with an average of just 26.5 - his worst in all three domestic formats - but with Brendon McCullum on his farewell tour, the short-form international will be aiming to push for a spot in the Black Caps middle order.
Elsewhere, third-placed Canterbury are on top of their clash with Northern Districts at Seddon Park.
A middle-order batting collapse saw ND tumble from 154-3 to 177-9, with only a record last-wicket partnership giving the hosts a defendable total. Daryl Mitchell and Tony Goodin added 80 for the 10th wicket as ND were dismissed for 257, Mitchell top scoring with a 77-ball 84.
The 24-year-old followed handy knocks from Dean Brownlie (46) and Bharat Popli (55), blasting eight fours and five sixes in his aggressive innings before being dismissed by a stunning one-handed juggling catch by Andy Ellis on the long-on boundary.
A trio of former internationals dominated with the ball for Canterbury, as Ellis and Hamish Bennett (both 2-51) and Todd Astle (3-81) claimed the key scalps.
Canterbury openers Leo Carter and Michael Davidson were steady, surviving two massive appeals to reach 56-0 at stumps.