Then there were three. Sacriston’s nine-wicket thrashing of Willington not only assured them of safety, it also virtually ended their opponents’ title aspirations.
That leaves Eppleton, Burnmoor and Washington, who are now separated by just eight points, to fight it out for the main prize.
The game of the day was at Burnmoor, where fellow challengers Washington were the visitors.
And they put down an early marker of substance in the shape of a partnership of 125 for the first wicket, Dan Anderson (63 from 91 balls) joining Matthew Potts (102 from 127 balls, with 14 fours and a six) in dominating the home attack.
Kevin Dixon (4-51) then brought Moor back into it, but the visitors were still able to post a commanding 235-5, with James Thompson making 32 and Martin Hubber 20, and had the confidence to declare in the 48th over.
Sri Lankan Irosh Samarasooriya then gave Moor hope of a successful chase, cracking 16 fours and a six in a wonderful exhibition of batting that only ended after he had scored 125 from 121 balls.
At that stage, the score was 197-3, Moor needing just 39 more for victory, but, with five wickets then crashing for the addition of just 18 more runs, discretion intervened and the solace of a draw was sought on 217-8.
Hubber plundered 3-53, with Andrew Ebdale taking 3-62.
Burnmoor took 10 points for their efforts, and Washington 16, and they had cause to be grateful to the weather as Eppleton, although taking 14 points from their game at Brandon, fell just short of winning a thrilling run chase.
That match was reduced to 85 overs, with Brandon scoring 207-5 in their 45, as Ryan Nicholson hit 68 and Matthew Whaley 66no, and Eppleton making a bold bid for the win via a 156-run third wicket stand between Kyle Davis (59) and Gary Burlinson (104 from 103 balls).
The Church Road men looked sure to succeed until a dramatic late twist, with Burlinson caught out with just 11 more needed, and the final over seeing two wickets fall as Eppleton ended on 204-7, their consolation being that the points they had already secured took them four clear of Burnmoor, and eight ahead of Washington.
Willington had one stand of note against Sacriston, a third-wicket partnership of 74 between Jake Louth (49) and Will Phillips (31) to sustain them against the threat posed by Will Gidman (4-27 from 11 overs), but once they were parted seven wickets fell for 48 runs and the innings was declared on 127-9 on the off-chance Sacriston could be bowled out.
But that was never in the equation as Mark Fort (52 not out from 60 balls) and Bryan Potts (68 not out from 61 balls) put on a match-winning second -wicket stand of 130.
Sacriston were majestic winners in just 20.1 overs of batting.
Willington are not mathematically out of the title race, but, with 24 points to make up, three teams above them, and just two games to go, the odds have lengthened considerably.
South Hetton now look down and out. They were handed a 190-run drubbing by Boldon, which effectively sealed their relegation fate.
Nick Sampson-Barnes (5-3) and Gareth Welsh (4-20) whistled through their batting line-up in just 20.5 overs as South Hetton were skittled for 50, leaving them well short of Boldon’s earlier 41.3-over effort of 240-8.
Sampson-Barnes fired 48 for Boldon, with skipper Chris Ellison top-scoring with eight fours and a six in a 43-ball salvo of 49.
Seaham Harbour toppled Sunderland by 52 runs after bowling the Ashbrooke men out for 142, and this despite half-centuries from Usman Arshad and Greg Applegarth.
Only one other batsman made it to double figures as Michael Stuart and Craig Stephenson shared six wickets. Nilkanth Parab and Dale Shaw both struck twice.
Seaham earlier posted 205 all out, with Andrew Boal (37), Craig Stephenson (36), Martin Stephenson (34) and David Leslie (23) top-scoring. Talal Khan plundered 5-54.