Whitburn lifted themselves out of the bottom two after their third – and best – victory of a previously undistinguished season.
As it was achieved at the expense of Hetton Lyons, their fellow strugglers are now involved in a relegation fight.
Top scorers, Scott Condy (48 not out) and Dan Shurben (40), and chief wicket-taker Mark Elliott (5-48), were Whitburn’s match winners at Lilywhite Terrace as they moved up three places to eighth, with some 48 points now separating them from the drop zone.
The Lyons chose a bad day to underperform as the bottom club, Gateshead Fell, won for the first time this season, and what was a 49-point gap from their nearest rivals has been reduced to 28.
Hetton were dismissed during a poor day at the office for just 136 runs, with Whitburn’s Kieran Waterson (3-36 from 10.2 overs) joining Elliott to set up the victory.
Openers Gary Scott (39 from 43 balls) and Allan Worthy (25) did their best to build a competitive score, but they had limited support in the Lyons’ innings, and, thanks largely to a late stand involving top scorer Condy, Whitburn made sure Lal Kumar (5-18 from 20 overs) did not inflict too much damage during the prolonged run chase. Their win by three wickets took them until the 60th over to achieve.
Chester-le-Street maintained their lead as table-toppers by virtue of a hard-fought draw against Durham Academy as their main rivals, South Northumberland, were also unable to force a win.
The Cestrians made the day’s top score – 310-5 – with George Harrison (91), Quentin Hughes (69) and Andrew Smith (51) sharing the batting honours.
Harrison faced 136 balls and hit 11 boundaries, Hughes scored at a run a ball with 12 fours while Smith’s run making was marginally quicker with four fours and two sixes.
But the Academy, who are notoriously difficult to beat, finished on 210-8, exactly 100 runs behind but with just about everyone contributing well, especially Eddie Hurst, who top scored with 51.
Chester-le-Street now lead by 15 points from South North, who also had to be satisfied with a draw against Stockton.
Rammi Singh maintained his recent fine form to make 93 from 104 balls as the Teessiders completed 63 overs on 257-6. South North got to within six runs of victory as the game ended on a knife-edge.
South Shields’ excellent season continued at Tynemouth where they won despite being bowled out for 130.
Once again, Aussie Tim David, with six boundaries in his top-scoring 48, led the batting charge, although Andrew Smith (3-9 from eight overs) looked to have put the home team on top.
But that was reckoning without a magnificent stint from Liam Dixon (6-50 from 15 overs), who took his tally of league wickets for the season to 31, the home team crumbling to 92 all out in 31 overs to lose by 38 runs and slip ever closer to the foot of the table.
Elsewhere, Newcastle (276-7) bowled out Benwell Hill for 60 to pick up a maximum 30 points while Gateshead Fell picked up their welcome victory in a derby at Blaydon.