It was a case of so near and yet so far for Eppleton as they slipped to a 15-run home defeat at the hands of South North that allowed the Bulls to charge back to the top of the Premier Division table.
Eppleton had several opportunities to secure what would have been their best win at top-flight level, none more so than when they had the champions on their knees at 72-6 following a brilliant opening burst from Paul Davidson.
But Stephen Humble (42) and Michael Craigs (46) put together a rescue act that eventually ended with South North having added exactly 100 more to the total, finishing on 172 all out
Davidson sent down 18 overs to claim a memorable haul of six wickets for 60 runs, as well as taking two catches, while Craig Scurr (3-33 from 15 overs) gave great support.
The home club then engineered further opportunities as Dean Musther excelled in the Church Road side’s reply.
They reached 106-3 in the run chase, and then 139-5, but the fall of Musther for 75, scored from 110 balls (with 10 boundaries), signalled the beginning of the end.
Marcus North was the unlikely bowling saviour for the champions. After ending Musther’s last stand, the former Australia Test batsman went on to take 4-27 as the final four wickets fell for just 10 runs.
Scurr (25), Davidson (15) and Abhijal Mansingh (12) were the only batsmen, other than Musther, to reach double figures.
The victory took the Bulls back to the top of the table as Newcastle’s game at Chester-le-Street lasted just 24 overs before a thunderstorm washed out any further prospect of play for the day.
Richard Waite took the only wicket to fall as Newcastle reached 60-1.
South Shields re-ignited their own title hopes with a 77-run victory over Benwell Hill that left their opponents in total disarray and moved the victorious home team to within 30 points of the summit.
This was another game where the losing side were left wondering where it all went wrong.
Shields could only scrape together a total of 124 batting first, 74 of that score down to Durham’s Gordon Muchall who unusually struck just five boundaries in bowler-friendly conditions.
His 109-ball vigil only ended when the rest of his team-mates were dismissed as Paul Van Meekeren turned in his best figures for the Hill of 5-34. Ollie Stedman made 19.
The start of the visitors response was dramatic, four wickets going down with just one run on the board, before a slight improvement to 6-5.
Hill had a mountain to climb but did not even make it to the foothills as Chris Stewart (6-24) and Mattie Muchall (3-15) turned the screw so effectively that the visitors could only stagger up to 47 before their final wicket fell. Seven ducks adorned the scorecard, with only the unbeaten Phil Nicholson (25no) getting into double figures.
Whitburn were little better in their game at Tynemouth.
The Villagers were routed for 53 in 41 torturous overs at the crease, Finn Lonnberg their nemesis as his 12-over spell of 5-17 laid waste to the top order.
Tynemouth lost Ben Debnam for 15 in the run chase, but had the game won inside 10 overs for just the loss of the one wicket.
Hetton Lyons were 66-1 against Gateshead Fell when the storms hit, with Jonny Malkin having hit five boundaries in an undefeated 40 off 72 balls. Brian Fenwick fell to Graham Onions for 12, while Chris Martin was 14 not out alongside Malkin.
Durham Academy (197-8) were happy enough with a draw down on Teesside after Stockton set them a target of 233-8, led by Tom Hewison’s 152-ball 87.
Indian Vijay Vyshak (2-36 and 49 not out) once again impressed for the Academy, while Alisdair Appleby grabbed 4-51 in his 13 overs. Scott Steel contributed three catches.
Chris McBride top-scored with eight fours and a six in 60 for Academy, backed by Vyshak, Josh Coughlin (36) and Appleby (21) as Ryan Buckley and Mitchell Gardner both took three wickets.