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After a dismal performance with the ball and two mediocre efforts with the bat, the Volts are in a dire position.
They led by 18 runs with two wickets in hand at stumps on day three after being forced to follow on.
Unless there is a dramatic turnaround and some heroics from the last batsmen, the home side should wrap up the game without too much fuss this morning.
Central has dominated every session bar the opening one.
Carl Cachopa has had a stunning match. He steered his side out of early trouble on day one with a fine century and was involved in the action again yesterday with three for 28 from 13 overs.
Andrew Mathieson was probably the pick of the bowlers, though, with three for 39 from 19 overs.
Johnson was at a loss to explain why his side has been so poor during the past three days.
"There is no hiding the fact that we've been totally outplayed in this match and I'm finding it hard to understand why, really," he said.
"Leading into this game, everybody had had a couple of scores in the top six and we'd got maximum bowling points in each game we'd played.
"We need a miracle to get out of this. We were 120 without loss and all of a sudden we're eight down. On a wicket that is pretty flat, that is very disappointing.
"We've got to find a way to get that mental hardness back before [Otago's game against Auckland on] Sunday."
Otago resumed on 232 for nine needing another 95 to avoid the follow-on.
Tailender Ian Butler has been productive with the bat so far this season and added 20 to his overnight score of 53. But he was left stranded on his highest first-class tally when No11 Blair Soper was undone for a 32-ball duck.
Otago had managed 257 and trailed by 219 runs. Central captain Kieran Noema-Barnett enforced the follow-on and Otago made a solid start to its second innings with Aaron Redmond and Hamish Rutherford both posting half-centuries in an opening stand of 120.
As so often happens, a single breakthrough triggered a mini collapse.
Andrew Mathieson removed Rutherford for 55 and then Cachopa claimed Redmond's wicket.
Part-timer Jeet Raval struck with his leg breaks, removing Neil Broom for six and Sam Wells for 24 as Otago slumped to 171 for five.
More misery followed with Jimmy Neesham (17) and Derek de Boorder (28) getting starts but failing to go on with it.
Mark Craig (20 not out) and Jacob Duffy (six not out) provided some stubborn resistance to help Otago reach 237 for eight and take the game into a fourth day.
• At stumps on day three in the Plunket Shield game between Auckland and Wellington at Eden Park yesterday, Wellington was 145 for two in its second innings and trailed Auckland by 133 runs.