Rampaging Dinesh Karthik [ Images ] lit up third day's proceedings with his second century of the match to put South Zone in firm control of the Duleep Trophy final against West Zone in Hyderabad on Thursday.
Karthik, who had slammed 183 in the first inninsgs, struck a fluent 150 as South Zone declared their second essay at 386 for nine to set West a mammoth 536-run winning target.
Chirag Pathak (41) and Harshad Khadiwale (8) guided West to 50 for no loss at stumps but South Zone have two full days to bowl out their opponents for an outright win.
Resuming at an overnight 42 for no loss, South Zone suffered a mini-collapse and were at a precarious 71 for four before Karthik came to their rescue.
The wicket-keeper batsman's 150 runs and a massive 247-run partnership with Muralidharen Gautam (88) virtually snatched the match away from West.
Karthik's blazing knock came off just 162 balls and was studded with 22 hits to the fence.
Gautam's 88 runs too came in reasonably quick time and he faced 118 balls, hitting eight fours and a six in the process.
West Zone bowlers, including India [ Images ] discard Irfan Pathan [ Images ], were largely ineffective when Karthik and Gautam were at the crease. Pathan eventually broke the stand when he dismissed Karthik off a wide delivery, which the right-hander cut straight to substitute fielder K Makvana.
Gautam departed in the very next over when an attempted six over mid-off was acrobatically caught by Bhavik Thaker of Ravindra Jadeja's [ Images ] bowling.
On an otherwise ordinary day for the West Zone bowlers, Dhawal Kulkarni shone with a five-wicket haul, conceding just 58 runs in 17 overs.
Kulkarni dismissed the entire top half of South Zone's line-up but like the rest of his bowling colleagues, he too had no answer for Karthik's aggression.
Chasing the improbable target, West Zone were off to a confident start with openers Chirag Pathak and Harshad Khadiwale scoring briskly.
Pathak was the more destructive of the two as he smacked seven boundaries and a six in his 27-ball 41. Harshad struck just two scoring shots -- both fours -- in his 28-ball knock so far.
But with two days of play still remaining, West Zone will have to bat out of their skin to win the match.
South Zone (1st innings): 400
West Zone (1st innings): 251
South Zone (2nd innings): Overnight 42 for no loss
S Anirudha c Pathak b Kulkarni 37
K Pawan c Jadeja b Kulkarni 20
A Karthik b Kulkarni 1
G Satish lbw b Kulkarni 6
D Karthik c sub (Makvana) b Irfan 150
C Gautam c Thaker b Jadeja 88
P Prem c sub (Abdulla) b Powar 24
C Ganapathy b Kulkarni 6
A Absolem not out 27
S Aravind c Kulkarni b Powar 2
R Aushik Srinivas not out 1
Extras (b-10, lb-8, w-3, nb-3) 24
Total (9 wickets dec; 88 overs) 386
Fall of wickets: 1-55, 2-63, 3-70, 4-71, 5-318, 6-318, 7-352, 8-356, 9-360.
Bowling: I Pathan 13-0-70-1, A Salvi 13-1-66-0, D Kulkarni 17-4-58-5, Ravindra Jadeja 17-4-52-1, R Powar 23-3-96-2, Y Pathan 5-0-26-0.
C Pathak batting 41
H Khadiwale batting 8
Extras (nb-1) 1
Total (0 wickets; 9 overs) 50
Bowling: C Ganapathy 4-0-16-0, A Absolem 2-1-9-0, S Aravind 2-0-13-0, R Aushik Srinivas 1-0-12-0.