Auckland will go into the final day of their clash against Wellington with the taste of a victory that would give them a stranglehold on the State Championship.

Wellington lost their way, and the initiative, last night against the fiery determination of Kerry Walmsley and the bounce of Andre Adams - the Auckland new-ball bowlers.

The match is evenly poised after three days, with Wellington having a 196-run lead with four wickets in hand.

But they will be furious that a 99-run first-innings lead has not been turned into a commanding position.

Michael Parlane's double century accounted for nearly half of Wellington's first-innings total and with Parlane falling cheaply in the second, the rest of the batsmen have failed to fill the gap.

After Auckland were dismissed for 328 on a day of often painfully slow scoring on the main Eden Park arena, Wellington made a confused effort to pressure the home side as they stumbled to 97 for for six.

They started disastrously, with Luke Woodcock falling leg-before to Walmsley from the first ball of the innings.

And they struggled for scoring strokes, then played a series of poor ones which cost them wickets.

Auckland, who would probably have been happy with four wickets by stumps, were grateful for the visitors' errors.

Wellington's dilemma was summed up by the strange cross-batted swish which saw James Franklin play on to a short Adams' delivery near the close of play.

And their run-scoring battle was highlighted by captain Matthew Bell taking 91 balls, and more than 90 minutes, to reach 17.

Auckland clawed their way to a 328 earlier in the day, with 18-year-old newcomer Carl Cachopa playing a central part in scraping together some middle-order runs.

He survived on tenacity, taking 88 balls to hit his only boundary and scoring just 17 from 123 balls, occupying the crease for 2 1/2 hours.

At the time, it seemed incidental. But as the day turned out, those runs were invaluable.

Wellington will resume with Chris Nevin and Stu Mills at the wicket. Auckland will be without the services of Tama Canning at the bowling crease because of a side strain, but he will bat if needed.

If Auckland do manage victory, they will have a 16-point advantage at the halfway stage of the championship, which takes a break for a month while the one-day competition is completed.

* Northern Districts' teenage opening batsmen Brad Watling and Brad Wilson led the way in their side's eight-wicket win over Otago in Gisborne yesterday.

Watling scored 64 and Wilson 35 as the home side reached their winning target of 185 with few problems.

Both debut youngsters were the casualties in Northern's 187 for two, but their 78-run opening stand ensured maximum points to Northern, which sees them climb to second place. Northern selector Pat Malcon was thrilled with how his new players responded.

- Additional reporting NZPA