Steven Smith will resume day four on 18 not out. Photo: Graham Tidy
Veteran wicketkeeper Brad Haddin will be looking to secure a triumphant Canberra homecoming as he attempts to steer NSW to a crucial Sheffield Shield win on Friday.
Haddin and Steve Smith will resume on five and 18 respectively with the Blues at 4-48 needing another 50 for victory against Queensland at Manuka Oval.
After Queensland was rolled for 173 in their second innings in reply to NSW's 8-319 (dec), paceman Ben Cutting delivered a timely reminder to national selectors with a devastating spell of 3-5.
Queensland took four late NSW wickets to give itself an outside chance of victory. Photo: Graham Tidy
Cutting was on the verge of making his Test debut when he was 12th man for last year's first Test against India at the Gabba, but the 25-year-old hasn't been sighted since, falling behind the likes of Josh Hazlewood and John Hastings in theorder.
He didn't even get the ball until four other Queensland bowlers had their turn, but responded brilliantly, grabbing a sharp caught and bowled to send Peter Nevill on his way for a duck, before rattling the stumps of Scott Henry (13) and Moises Henriques (duck) in the same over.
Queensland coach Darren Lehmann wasn't giving up hope of the Bulls pulling off a miraculous victory and extending their lead at the top of the competition.
''We need to get a couple of wickets very quickly in the morning but at least we're a slim, slim chance,'' Lehmann said. ''But I was really proud of the way we went about it. ''I think both sides have bowled really well, but both sides probably haven't batted as well as they should have.''
NSW leg-spinner Adam Zampa, who has taken five wickets on his first-class debut, said having Haddin and Smith at the crease had a steadying influence on the dressing room.
''There are two in-form players, so hopefully they can get set and knock off the runs,'' Zampa said.
''We're still quite confident.
If you said to us on the last day we'd need 50 runs to win with six wickets in hand we'd be quite happy, and that's still the thought process at the moment. Even though we've lost a few wickets, the feeling in the dressing sheds is still pretty relaxed.''
Resuming at 6-291 in their first innings on Thursday, NSW lost Smith in the opening over for 90 before captain Steve O'Keefe made a surprise declaration, closing the innings at 8-319, a lead of 76.
The Bulls never got any traction on a pitch starting to display variable bounce, top-scorer Wade Townsend (39) and Peter Forrest (22) both shouldering arms only for the ball to crash into the stumps.
Usman Khawaja, LBW to Doug Bollinger for eight, missed a golden opportunity to press his claims as Ricky Ponting's Test replacement.
Cutting (31) and Cameron Boyce (21no) put together a handy 35-run partnership before Zampa cleaned up the tail with three quick wickets to leave the Bulls all out for 173.
Play resumes on Friday at 10.30am.