For the second successive day, the man the whole nation looks up to as a role model and whose presence in the Mumbai dressing room is inspirational, was absent from the field. Sachin Tendulkar did not take the field for the entire UP innings because of a fever.
In his absence, the many-time Ranji champions were put on the path for their 38th title by India's spearhead Zaheer Khan. The 30-year-old left-armer finished with seven for 54 including a dream spell of five for 20 from 4.2 overs with the second new ball as Uttar Pradesh, replying to Mumbai's 402, were shot out for 245, giving the team from West Zone a 157-run lead.
At stumps on Wednesday, with neither the UP medium-pacers nor the spinners making any impression, Mumbai openers Vinayak Samant (53 batting) and Wasim Jaffer (74 batting) rode comfortably on their 130-run unbroken partnership.
With an overall lead of 287 and two days remaining, Mumbai have tightened the noose around UP's neck.
When play resumed at 91 for three, UP relied on Shivakant Shukla and Parvinder Singh to reduce the deficit but the pair could not repeat their semifinal heroics.
The fourth-wicket duo nearly batted for two hours as the Mumbai bowlers could not do much with the old ball. Zaheer too could do little as the conditions did not favour the reverse swing.
Off-spinner Ramesh Powar and leg-spinner Sairaj Bahutule did not get much turn out of the pitch and appeared to be just playing a holding role, giving the medium-pacers the break.
However, the dangerous pair was separated by 'partnership breaker' Abhishek Nayar, when Parvinder played an outswinger away from his body and edged to wicket-keeper.
Not shaken by the loss, Shukla concentrated hard and settled down in Bhuvaneshwar Kumar's company. The duo consumed time and frustrated Mumbai for more than an hour after lunch.
They even saw off the first 10 overs of the second new ball before Shukla, on 99, was trapped by an incoming delivery from Zaheer. Shukla walked almost immediately after the impact, not waiting for the verdict from umpire Tarapore.
Here began Zaheer's dream spell. While no other bowler looked like taking wickets except for Agarkar, who had Bhuvanesh throw his wicket away to a slip catch, Zaheer came up with his second five-wicket haul for Mumbai.
In a spell of controlled swing bowling, the UP tail fell to catches either behind the wicket of within the 30-yard circle.