The hosts reached 275-5 at the close of play after a potentially difficult day on a demanding pitch was rescued by the fifth-wicket pair who showed great patience in the face of some accurate bowling from the Durham attack.
An overcast morning at Lancashire’s 13th first-class home venue saw Durham elect to field first after an uncontested toss, with opening bowler Chris Rushworth making an early breakthrough when he clean bowled Keaton Jennings for 11 in the ninth over.
Jennings had looked in decent order, getting off the mark with a four through gully off Rushworth, before the same bowler induced him to edge a chance to Jack Burnham at third slip, which was dropped.
Rushworth made amends with the next delivery, hitting Jennings’ stumps with a ball that kept slightly low judging by the England opener’s rueful glance at the pitch as he departed.
At the other end, Alex Davies was in pugnacious form as he looked to drive down the ground at every opportunity with the wicketkeeper-batsman reaching lunch following a flurry of boundaries.
However, resuming on 71-1 after the break, Davies fell quickly after he received a brute of a ball from Brydon Carse, which bounced and left the batsman feathering through to wicketkeeper Ned Eckersley for 38.
Using the short-pitched delivery to good effect, Durham proceeded to put the squeeze on Lancashire who struggled to find any gaps on the picturesque if rather chilly ground on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales.
Haseeb Hameed was the next batsman to fall, edging Ben Raine to Durham skipper Cameron Bancroft at second slip for 24, with the score 81-3 and the visitors well on top.
With the day’s play in the balance, Lancashire – who currently lie second in Division Two of the Specsavers County Championship – began a patient rebuild with Liam Livingstone and Jones progressing the score to 136-3 by the time the players departed the field due to bad light at 3.50pm.
Jones took full advantage of his let-off on 12 when he was badly dropped by Eckersley off Chris Rushworth.
Livingstone had reached a painstaking 35 runs from 95 balls when he became Nathan Rimmington’s first victim following a vociferous LBW appeal after tea, which left Lancashire 141-4 and Durham with another chance of making further inroads.
Instead, Villas joined the impressive Jones and the pair dominated the final session, until the 23-year-old was trapped in front by Rushworth for an excellent 52 from 150 balls.
Rushworth should have had his third victim when new batsman Steven Croft edged an easy chance to Alex Lees at first slip, but Croft survived and had progressed to 29 not out by the close of play with Vilas unbeaten on 67.