Depleted Sheffield Shield final hosts Victoria have fought their way to a narrow first-innings lead at the midway point of their match against South Australia in Adelaide.
Victoria ended Thursday's second day at Karen Rolton Oval on 8-280 for a lead of 20 runs.
The Vics' final pair are at the crease with in-form batsman Nic Maddinson forced to return to Melbourne after injuring his thumb on day one in the field.
Maddinson's injury means Victoria have only four specialist batsmen at their disposal, with the Shield leaders having elected to share the fast-bowling workload ahead of the final.
Young gun Will Pucovski led the way on day two scoring a composed 82 before he was dismissed unluckily off Travis Head's bowling, with his stroke cannoning off the bat-pad fielder and into the air for a simple catch.
Wicketkeeper Seb Gotch also impressed with 63 before he too fell victim to part-timer Head (2-26).
Matt Short contributed an important 56 during the final session, but the Bushrangers lost 4-4 late on Thursday to leave the contest evenly poised.
Ever-reliable Redbacks' seamer Chadd Sayers did most of the damage, ending the day with figures of 3-49 from 25 overs after an injury layoff.
Victoria will host NSW or Western Australia when the five-day Shield final begins next Thursday at Junction Oval.
Australian Associated Press