Will Jefferson’s first innings knock of 42 was the highlight of a poor Notts batting display as Surrey forced the follow-on on day three at Trent Bridge.
Having resumed on 356-7, Surrey recorded a first innings total of 403 before restricting Notts to 218 all out from 59 overs.
Nottinghamshire’s in-form seamer Darren Pattinson finished with 5-72 having had Chris Jordan caught by Adam Voges at slip but Saqlain Mushtaq stretched the visitor’s lead reaching 50 with a miss-hit four before Graeme Swann held a return catch to end his stand with the very next ball.
An opening partnership of 60 between Jefferson and Matt Wood should have paved the way for Notts to work towards their target of achieving maximum batting bonus points but after the openers were caught behind by Jonathan Batty, Notts slipped to 146-5.
Mark Wagh was caught by Stewart Walters off Matt Nicholson, Adam Voges gloved to Batty and Chris Read lost his off-stump in leaving a Chris Jordan delivery.
Samit Patel (41) and Graeme Swann (33) lent a degree of respectability to the middle order but Notts went from 202-7 to 218 all out.
"When you're playing in Division One, it's a very important to have the mental strength to clinch draws in games that you can't win and that will be put to the test tomorrow," said Notts Director of Cricket Mick Newell.
"A minimum expectation was to avoid the follow-on and if we had achieved that then the game would have petered out into a draw.
"There was some poor shot selection and some poor execution but we can still take seven points from the game and keep our place at the top of the Championship and that has to be our target."
Jefferson was bowled by Jade Dernbach for nought in the second innings and after Mark Wagh was caught behind leg-side, night watchman Andre Adams accompanied Matt Wood as Notts closed on 46-2 trailing Surrey by 139 runs.