EPPLETON’S winning streak came to a desperately close end in a dramatic encounter at Wood Terrace which resulted in South Shields reclaiming the Dukes North East Premier League First Division top spot from their defeated opponents.
But it all looked so different at the halfway stage after the Eppleton attack had excelled in dismissing their hosts for 102.
Gary Purcell (4-25 from 13.3 overs) and David Wilkinson (3-18 from nine overs) had exerted such a tight grip on proceedings that Shields had been made to limp through 47.3 overs just to reach that modest mark.
But then the Eppleton world was turned upside down as an opening burst from Chris Stewart (4-45) left their innings in tatters, the first six men to fall mustering just nine runs between them.
Man-in-form Dean Musther (32) and Calum Jefferson (28) then began the long and painful process of rehabilitation of the innings, and they looked to be succeeding until Gareth Dunn (2-14) and Andrew Elliott (2-15) struck the fatal blows to leave Eppleton two runs short on 100 all out in 47 overs.
Shields’ win took them 14 points clear of Eppleton, who have to now share second spot with Sacriston, even though they were held to a draw by Washington.
A third-wicket stand of 92 between Cole Pearce (85 from 153 balls) and skipper Ash Thorpe (50 from 68 balls) set Washington on their way to a total of 205 in 54 overs, Jonathan Rudolph (5-44) and Graham Hubber (4-35) doing a great job with the ball for Sacriston.
Then, despite an opening stand of 48 that raised the visitors’ aspirations, Melvyn Betts (3-39) took out the top three batters to set Sacriston back on their heels, and they eventually settled for safety on 156-7 in their 51 overs. Jak Gaff bagged 2-27 in 14 overs.
The 14 points that Washington gained from the stalemate moved them up to fourth, just four points adrift of the two sides above them in joint second place.
But the biggest movers on the day were Seaham Harbour.
A bit like buses - or maybe it should be boats in Harbour’s case – after waiting weeks for one win to come along two come together, and the 134-run hammering of South Hetton lifted the winners up to the heady heights of fifth spot in the table.
Harbour had plenty of run-makers in a total of 250-6 made from 55 overs, Dale Shaw headlining with six fours and three sixes in a rapid 66 made from just 63 balls. Jeff Laws made 39, Ian Pattison 34, Stewart Pattison 25no and Craig Stephenson 34 to offer good support.
It was then over to the returning Jack Lacey, who blew away South Hetton in 14.4 electrifying overs in which he claimed seven wickets for 47 runs.
South Hetton were hunted down for 116 inside 31 overs, despite 38 from Kamran Shah, to slip down to seventh in the table.
Boldon were unable to make use of a Joe Coyne century as they were held to a draw by Felling.
The day started so well for the home side as skipper Chris Ellison (10 fours in 73 made from 143 balls) joined with Coyne in an opening partnership of 176.
Coyne went on to make 119 from 165 balls as Boldon utilised their full 55 overs in notching up 240-3.
But Felling proved stubborn opponents, batting out their 50 overs without too much trouble to end on 190-6, Chris Goudie top-scoring with 52 which included 10 boundaries. Murtuza Hussain and Philip Shakespeare both struck twice.
Brandon got back to winning ways with a seven-wicket success at home to Willington, easing past a target of 158 in just 24 overs.
Eddie Watson was their match winner, bagging 7-41 from 15 outstanding overs to bowl the visitors out in 42.4 overs.
Stuart Poynter (12 fours in 64no) and Andrew Walker (56no from 42 balls) then made light of the loss of three early wickets as they rushed the hosts to victory.