There was heartbreak and joy in equal measure on Saturday as Chester-le-Street saw their title dreams evaporate in the hot sun, while Whitburn pulled off their first win in seven matches to virtually guarantee Premier Division status for another season.
The Cestrians needed everything to go for them in their game at leaders South North.
Instead, it seemed the fates were conspiring against them as firstly the game was cut short by 13 overs as the saturated outfield was given time to dry out after Friday’s downpours, and then, with the toss vital on a damp surface, the coin fell in favour of the hosts.
Unsurprisingly, Chester were invited to bat first, and, after initially struggling up to 36-1, the wheels started to come off as three wickets fell for just eight more runs.
Chris Martin (30 from 46 balls) then held out hope of a longer term recovery, but his dismissal sparked a final collapse as the last six wickets crashed for just 32 runs as the Cestrians slumped to 112 all out in 36.5 overs.
Jonny Wightman (3-36) had a hand in the first five wickets to fall, adding a catch and a run-out to his bowling repertoire, and then Lee Crozier (4-32), not for the first time, bamboozled the bottom half.
When the Bulls were reduced to 22-4 ,with all their big guns gone, the game was back in the balance.
However, Adam Cragg (37 from 76 balls) and Rob Peyton (23 from 41) dug in as South North edged home by two wickets, the efforts of Mark Turner (3-47), Andrew Bell (3-38) and Quention Hughes (2-21) not quite enough to turn the tide completely.
The victory took South North 28 points clear of Chester with just three games left to play, and it now looks almost certain that the Bulls will make it 10 titles in 13 seasons.
At the opposite end of the table, Whitburn emerged victorious from their home game against South Shields. With a 33-point lead over new bottom club Gateshead Fell, they can start making plans for another top-flight season barring any late catastrophes.
Shields arrived at the Village Ground on the back of a seven-game winless run, and their fragile confidence was on display once more as they slumped to 135 all out, only Muhammad Afaq, who has spent most of the season in the second team, showing any real resistance with 12 fours and two sixes in a 54-ball 70.
The last eight Shields wickets went down for just 42 runs as Kieran Waterson blazed his way with 6-55.
Dan Shurben then headed up the successful run chase, hitting 12 boundaries in an unbeaten 68 scored from 65 balls. With Neil Ayre (34) providing solid support in a second-wicket partnership worth 60 runs, the home team were able to cruise to a seven-wicket win in less than 23 overs.
Gateshead Fell gave a feisty display before going down by three wickets to Tynemouth, while Blaydon edged nine points ahead of the bottom club with a draw at Newcastle.
South Shields have now joined Whitburn on 215 points, and while neither can claim mathematical safety, they should both survive, although Fell cannot be dismissed, given their Houdini acts of previous seasons.
Hetton Lyons lost for only the second time in eight matches, Durham Academy beating them by 98 runs.
Dylan Budge (84), Scott Steel (58) and Liam Trevaskis (34) steered the Academy to 201-9 declared, Lal Kumar bagging 5-41 and Josh Coughlin 2-42.
Jonny Malkin was Lyons’ only batsman to top 14 with a brave 49, with eight boundaries, but the hosts could not cope with the bowling of Gavin Main (6-16) and Steel (3-41) as they struggled to 103 all out.
Lyons were 19-5 at one point.