With no victories since the end of April, the Villagers are likely to be dragged into the relegation dogfight unless they can find their form quickly.
It was the batting that came off the rails on this occasion.
A steady start against Chester saw them reach 48 before the first wicket fell, and then progress to 79-1, but then the wheels came off big style, with nine wickets crashing for 50 as the home batsmen failed to come to terms with Cestrian spinner Richard Waite, who ended with wonderful figures of 8 for 42 from 20 overs.
Once again it was Dan Shurben shouldering most of the batting load. He hit eight fours and one six in a 68-ball stay at the crease in which he scored 47, but, with the club’s other main runscorer, Joe Coyne, falling for a duck on this occasion, there was little resistance once the breakthrough had been made. Durham’s Jack Burnham made 26 in Whitburn’s 129 all out in 53.3 overs.
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The Chester run chase was relatively straightforward, opener George Harrison playing the perfect anchor role with an unbeaten half century from 93 balls, backed by Andrew Smith (25) and Quentin Hughes (24no) as his team eased to a seven-wicket win inside 33 overs.
Victory lifted Chester up to fourth place – just 14 points behind new leaders Newcastle, but for Whitburn their meagre return of two points left them 23 points above bottom club Gateshead Fell, who were on the wrong end of another eight-wicket display, South North’s Jonny Wightman picking up a personal best for the Bulls as the champs won by eight wickets.
Eppleton suffered a disappointing home defeat at the hands of Stockton, going down by 158 runs at Church Road after slumping to 97 all out when set a target of 255-8 by the visitors.
The Teessiders piled on the runs early doors after a delayed start due to the fog and mist. Youngster Tom Hewison (70) joined with Allan Worthy (42) in an opening stand of 94, then skipper Kevin Ward (58) heaped on the pressure as the visitors raced to 209-2 before Abhijai Mansingh managed to apply some restraint as he picked up four wickets for 20 runs.
Kyle Davis (33) then promised to redress the balance as the hosts reached 65-2, but then former Durham player Ryan Buckley (4-18) joined with Haidar Shafiq (4-24) to share the eight wickets that evaporated for just 32 more runs. Gary Burlinson made 22.
Hetton Lyons suffered a 46-run defeat at Tynemouth, but at least have some cover now for Indian pro Faiz Fazal, with South African Ockert Erasmus joining them for the next month.
He was powerless to prevent the former leaders prevailing, although Ben Whitehead, with 4-49 and 60 runs, must wonder how he finished on the losing side.
Durham’s Stuart Poynter hit 57 in Tynemouth’s 176 all out, when Cameron Grimwood bagged a brilliant haul of 5-23. Lyons then fell for 130.
Durham Academy continue to show fighting spirit.
They held high-flying South Shields to a draw despite a second century of the summer, scored from just 103 balls, from Tim David.
Set 253-7, as Eddie Hurst hit 55no and Gordon Muchall 51, with Matthew Potts and Alex Simpson both striking twice, the Academy survived without too many difficulties on 194-7, opener Alasdair Appleby (56 from 95 balls) holding the innings together after losing two partners early in the piece.
Simpson added an unbeaten 36, with Chris McBride contributing 29 and Asher Hart 22no. Shields’ Chris Stewart plundered 3-39, with Sam Embleton taking 2-50.
A wonderful game of cricket at Jesmond saw Newcastle preserve the only remaining unbeaten record, but only just as they defeated neighbours Benwell Hill by 10 runs to go top after a run saturated match.
Newcastle (309-6 declared) claimed Hill’s final wicket with four balls to go after the visitors had made a valiant effort to chase the target down before ending up 298 all out.
Newcastle skipper Jacques du Toit was the inspiration, smashing 167 not out from 115 balls, before following up with a five-wicket bag, including the match-winning stick.