ON a day when in-form Eppleton became the new Dukes North East Premier League First Division leaders, Seaham Harbour were tucking in to their first success of the summer in a dramatic game at Felling.
To add to the drama, Sacriston were handing out a drubbing to one of the title favourites, Brandon, who were skittled for the second game in succession.
Boldon used up all their 55 overs in reaching 168-9 at Eppleton, the four-pronged home attack keeping the innings under wraps for long periods, with David Wilkinson the pick as he claimed 4-40 from his 14 overs. Garry Purcell bagged 2-30.
When Kyle Davis and Graham Hoban went early in the home reply at 5-2, it looked like the Eppleton innings might also struggle, but a match-defining partnership of 108 between Dean Musther (64 from 88 balls, including seven fours) and Liam Mallaburn then repaired that damage, and Mallaburn went on to steer his team to a four-wicket win and end on 53 not out, with five boundaries.
With South Shields going down to a last-over defeat at South Hetton, victory enabled Eppleton to ease into a slender two-point lead with five games gone.
The Wood Terrace outfit decided to take the bold step of declaring after 50 overs at South Hetton on 205-8, Oliver Stedman cracking five fours and four sixes to make 71 from 56 balls.
But Shields’ attacking move backfired when they lost by three wickets with just five balls of the match remaining.
Kamran Shah (78 not out from 146 balls) provided the solidity for South Hetton, and then Omar Shahid smashed 67 from 69 balls to provide just the right impetus for a home success.
Emotions swayed back and forth at Felling, where the home side made it up to 164 despite being 86-6 at one stage.
Phil Taylor (46) and Chris Taylor (40no) were the key home influences, but Shoaib Akhtar (3-34), Stuart Pattison (2-19) and Ian Pattison (2-49) kept Seaham Harbour in with a chance,.
Ian Pattison then showed his pedigree with an unbeaten 86 made from 124 balls.
But he had to hold his nerve as all around him lost theirs, needing to guide youngster Nathan Newton through a last-wicket stand that yielded the necessary nine runs required to seal the all-important win. Craig Stephenson added 17 and Dale Shaw 16.
Sacriston struck a major blow in the title race when they toppled close rivals Brandon by eight wickets.
John Carmedy (28) was the only Brandon batsman able to cope with the home attack in which Ian Hunter grabbed 4-10 from seven overs, while Mo Ali wrapped the innings up with two wickets in his three maiden overs.
The last five wickets crashed for just eight runs to leave the shell-shocked visitors with a meagre total of 65 to defend, and Sacriston made light work of the run chase as they cruised home in 11.2 overs, Ali (33no) and youngster Dan Anderson (29) putting the result beyond doubt with an opening partnership of 53.
Washington relit their own championship fires with a comfortable seven-wicket victory over Willington.
Melvyn Betts (3-23) and Adam Randall (3-33) proved a potent pace pairing as the home team were restricted to 168, with youngster Matthew Potts grabbing 2-4 in six overs, with four maidens. Cole Pearce (54 not out, with seven boundaries) then ensured there were no alarms as Washington won with ease.
Potts was run out for 44, while opening partner Daniel Shurben had six fours in his knock of 36 and Daniel Woolston added 21.