A stunning defeat for Whitburn at the hands of bottom club Gateshead Fell has left them looking over their shoulders as the bottom two edge ever closer.
Whitburn came out on the wrong side of a low-scoring affair at Eastwood Gardens, beaten by 12 runs by a side who hadn’t won before Saturday.
And it could have been even worse as only a last-wicket stand of 29 made the eventual margin of defeat relatively respectable – as well as the 33 extras which Fell gifted them, which included 15 no balls!
At the half way stage, and having bowled Fell out for 136, Whitburn looked to be in the ascendancy following some fine bowling by Ian Elliot, who took 4-37, and Kieran Waterson (3-53 in 20 overs), with Adam Whatley top-scoring on 40.
But the Villagers were then rocked by the double strike force of Whatley (5-64 in 20 overs) and David Daley (5-23 in 15 overs), the deadly duo sharing all 10 wickets to fall.
Jeremy Benton’s unbeaten 28 led Whitburn in their 124 all out in 42 overs, with Dan Shurben adding 18.
At the same time as Fell were winning for the first time, so were the Durham Academy.
Liam Trevaskis setting up a splendid success at Denton Bank with a five-wicket haul that had Benwell Hill back in the shed for 155.
Josh Coughlin and Alasdair Appleby both struck twice, with Philip Nicholson (43) top-scoring for the hosts.
The run chase wasn’t all plain sailing, but 42 from opener Appleby, an unbeaten 40 from Scott Steel and 24 from Ross Greenwell, was enough to secure a welcome four-wicket win with five overs to spare. Max Williamson bagged 4-35.
Chester-le-Street’s home match against Eppleton featured on Sky TV’s Test match coverage for a short time on Saturday, David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd providing some light relief from Sri Lanka’s surrender, but this didn’t inspire Eppleton to greater heights as they went down to a 79-run defeat.
All nine Chester batsmen who got to the crease in a total of 210-8 made it into double figures, Liam Simpson the top scorer with 36, backed by 28 apiece from James Thompson and Andrew Smith.
Richard Waite and John Coxon both added 26, with Joe Blacklock snaffling 3-33 supported by two wickets each from Liam Dixon and David Wilkinson.
Eppleton could not find the same consistency in their batting as Simpson blew away their top order with a 16-over spell of 5-26 before Andrew Smith provided a dramatic ending.
After slipping to 115-8, out of which Dean Musther made 45, with seven fours and a six, the visitors thought they had dug themselves out of a hole as number 10 bat Blacklock resisted for 33 balls, hitting two boundaries, to take Eppleton to within nine balls of a hard[fought draw.
But Smith (3-24) removed him in the penultimate over, and needed just one more ball to wrap things up. John Harrison took 2-35.
Graham Hoban made a patient 20 off 79 balls, while Liam Dixon was unbeaten on nine from 60 balls.
The 29-point haul lifted the Cestrians into the top half of the table.
With some surprising results up at the summit, the Ropery Lane outfit are now just 17 points adrift of leaders Tynemouth, who were denied victory on Teesside by a backs-to-the-wall defensive effort by Stockton, who hung on at 125-9 in reply to 229-9.
The major shock of the day came at South Shields, where South North were subjected to their first league defeat since April 2014, and the Shieldsmen made it look easy.
The Bulls were penned in for 173, and then the home team rattled off an eight-wicket success with more than 17 overs to spare. Tim David was the inspiration, following up a bowling return of 3-10 with an unbeaten 89, helped by Gordon Muchall’s 62 not out.
Sam Embleton bagged 3-52, while Chris Stewart and Matty Muchall both struck twice for Shields.
With the Bulls beaten, Newcastle are now the only undefeated side.
The Tynesiders moved into second spot with a three -wicket win at Hetton Lyons after the home side were bowled out for 154 to provide a disappointing farewell for Faiz Fazal, who is off to Zimbabwe with the India squad.
Opener Jonny Malkin made a fine 56, with eight boundaries, to lead Lyons’ scoring, backed by Fazal (22, with five fours), Robert Talbot (16) and 15 apiece from Chris Martin and Ben Whitehead.
Jacques du Toit starred with the ball, bagging 4-29 while Oliver McGee took 3-49.
In reply, Newcastle were rocked by three wickets apiece from Whitehead and Cameron Grimwood (3-27 in 11 overs), but Nick Hobson (40) and Michael Allan (32) steered them home in 49.1 overs.