Captain Paul Collingwood is hoping Durham can overturn a 48-point advantage and return to County Championship Division One at the first attempt as the 2017 season gets under way.
Collingwood's side were relegated from the top flight and docked 48 points after accepting a financial bailout from the ECB, and as a result are as long as 14/1 to secure a top-two finish.
The 40-year-old all-rounder is still targeting promotion - although they will need plenty of luck.
"It felt pretty brutal, it felt cruel. In the harsh reality of it, it's pretty much a two-year penalty," said Collingwood, who skippered Durham to their third championship title in the space of six years in 2013.
"If you're looking at it from an outsider's point of view they're trying to penalise us two years and keep us down for two years. We're going to try and make it into one year, that's our aim.
"I think everything has to go our way, literally everything; from the weather, from those close games that you get throughout the season and key players finding form at the right time.
"We might be in a different division and it's not going to be easy but we're desperate to do something special this year and that would be getting promoted after being 48 points down."
In Division One, Yorkshire are 2/1 favourites to secure a third title in four years - although injuries have struck several key players in pre-season, including Liam Plunkett and Jack Brooks.
Surrey, who added Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick to an already strong squad following Durham's relegation, are available at 11/2.
Lancashire, who lost director of cricket Ashley Giles to Warwickshire over the winter as well as the runs of Alviro Peterson, are 13/4 to finish bottom.
James Vince, discarded by England and with a point to prove, can top Hampshire's run-scoring charts at 4/1.