Michael Carberry struck his first format century as the defending champion Hampshire Royals booked their place at finals day of the Friends Life t20 with a tense, one-run victory over Lancashire Lightning.
Carberry hit two off the final delivery of the hosts' innings to reach three figures and secure a score of 202 for three at the Ageas Bowl.
Lancashire made a fine fist of the reply as Karl Brown hit 49 and Steven Croft 43 not out, but Gareth Cross could not hit the four required off the final ball as his side fell agonisingly short.
Hampshire have been the competition’s dominant team in recent times - they are now chasing a third title in four years - and once again showed their class with the bat.
They were led, as is often the case, by openers Carberry and James Vince.
The latter was the early aggressor, signalling his intentions when hooking Mitchell McClenaghan for six.
Carberry lost little by comparison, though, and duly delivered a series of muscular strokes of his own, particularly over midwicket.
Such was their dominance that it came as a real surprise when Vince departed, caught in the deep by McClenaghan when pulling a Simon Kerrigan full toss.
That dismissal did little to stem the tide, however, as Jimmy Adams kept things ticking over with 30 amid Carberry flourishing further.
Adams and Sean Ervine would fall in quick succession but, despite being starved by some good Hampshire death bowling, he inside edged the final ball on to his pad and scampered a two that delighted all in attendance.
Tom Smith immediately undertook the task of powering Lancashire's response, pulling a six over midwicket off Dimitri Mascarenhas.
Yet he was to depart for a quick 22, Carberry once again getting involved when claiming a simple chance in the deep off Sohail Tanvir.
Karl Brown picked up the baton thereafter, preferring to heave over leg in a fine innings that briefly threatened to make Lancashire favourites.
However, the number three was bowled by Danny Briggs – albeit with replays suggesting it may have been the wicketkeeper’s glove and not the ball that contacted off stump.
The left-arm spinner followed that up by bowling Simon Katich next up, and suddenly the Red Rose were huge underdogs again.
Liam Dawson chipped in when having the set Stephen Moore caught and bowled for 44, only for late Croft heroics to turn the game on its head.
At one stage, 27 were required from eight balls but the batsman scooped and straight-drove Chris Wood for four and six respectively.
That left 17 needed in the last over, which started with a Sohail waist-high full toss that Moore picked up two from.
He would then seemingly move closer to taking Lancashire over the line via a crunching aerial drive through mid-off.
However, Sohail regained his composure and Cross was unable to strike the decisive blow off the final delivery as Hampshire reached finals day for the fourth successive year.
Live Text Commentary
10pm - RESULT! Hampshire win by two runs and reach finals day! - Tanvir finds the blockhole and the Royals the last four yet again. Lancashire end on 201 for four; what a fight they put up.
9:56pm - Here we go:
Ball 1 - And it's a no-ball, over waist height, that conceded. Fourteen from six needed!
Ball 2 - Cross gets a single into the off side.
Ball 3 - Ooh, almost another high full toss from Sohail Tanvir. Croft gets two. Eleven from four needed.
Ball 4 - And now it's seven off three! Moore crunches four over long-off!
Ball 5 - A single down to long-on leaves six needed from two balls.
Ball 6 - It happened in crazy fashion but Lancashire pick up two and four are needed off the final ball. Cross is on strike.
9:52pm - I was about to say that Chris Wood had likely won Hampshire the game. And, suddenly, Croft hits the final two balls of his over for four and six, via a ramp and straight drive respectively, to leave Lancashire needing 17 off the final set of six.
9:50pm - Thirty-one runs needed from two overs...
9:42pm - Is there to be a twist in the tale? Gareth Cross and Steven Croft have each cleared the rope.
9:35pm - WICKET! Moore c & b Dawson 44; Lancashire 133/4 - The spin twins are undermining Lancashire now, with Moore edging an attempted turn to leg back to the bowler. Earlier, the sprinklers coming on briefly halted play! You don't see that very often.
9:26pm - WICKET! Katich b Briggs 0; Lancashire 113/3 - Maybe not now! Two in two for Briggs as he grabs a key scalp when bowling Simon Katich.
9:23pm - WICKET! Brown b Briggs 49; Lancashire 113/2 - Big wicket for Hampshire as Danny Briggs bowls the impressive Brown. This is still very much game on, though.
BROWNY! What a shot. Six over mid-wicket #monster 93-1 after nine.
— Lancashire CCC (@LancsCCC) August 7, 2013
9:15pm - It certainly is not now! There's been some excellent shots from Brown in the last few moments; he is on to 31 with the stand beyond 50.
9:06pm - Stephen Moore and Karl Brown take Lancashire to 51 for one after the powerplay. This one is not over yet.
8:57pm - WICKET! Smith c Carberry b Sohail 22; Lancashire 31/1 - You cannot keep him out of the game! Michael Carberry takes a skier in the deep as Smith fails to repeat his shot from the previous over.
8:54pm - Cracking shot from Tom Smith, who pulls Dimitri Mascarenhas over midwicket for a maximum. A composed start has become a very good one.
8:50pm - The Red Rose make a composed start to reach 13 without loss after two overs.
8:28pm - END OF INNINGS - Hampshire 202/3; Carberry 100, Dawson 2 - McClenaghan sends down a fine last over, at the end of which Carberry hits two and completes a superb 66-ball century - his first in the shortest format. What an effort; it will take something special for Lancashire to chase this!
8:22pm - WICKET! Ervine c Moore b Kabir 6; Hampshire 187/3 - Lancashire are dragging things back slightly, but is it too little, too late? Sean Ervine could not hang around, caught in the deep off Kabir Ali.
WICKET: Adams is bowled coming down the wicket off the bowling of Croft. Hants now 179-2 in the 17th over.
— Hampshire Cricket (@hantscricket) August 7, 2013
8:10pm - The runs continue to flow freely at the Ageas Bowl, Carberry leading the way in fine style. A score beyond 200 looks on the cards.
7:59pm - This is truly wonderful from Carberry, who is hitting boundaries at will. He is on 64 from just 37 balls.
7:54pm - Ooh, that was nasty. Umpire Neil Mallender takes a blow to the back as Jimmy Adams hits straight. Thankfully, Neil's a tough ol' cookie and ready to go again.
7:51pm - FIFTY! Carberry (31b 7x4 1x6) - A single takes Carberry to 50 as Hampshire continue to pile on the runs despite losing Vince.
7:49pm - WICKET! Vince c McClenaghan b Kerrigan 60; Hampshire 110/1 - That's a much-needed breakthrough for Lancashire as, after hitting a couple more boundaries, Vince pulls a Simon Kerrigan full toss to be caught in the deep.
7:45pm - FIFTY! Vince (25b 7x4 0x6) - This is wonderful stuff from Hampshire, whose run-rate is 11 an over after 10. Vince has just reached a superb, 25-ball half-century.
Royals are 72-0 after the first six powerplay overs. Excellent start. Need to keep it up. Vince 37*, Carberry 35*
— Hampshire Cricket (@hantscricket) August 7, 2013
7:28pm - The Royals' flying start continues, Carberry and Vince moving the score on to 52 after five overs. The latter has just hit the first six with Stephen Moore parrying a hook over the rope.
7:21pm - And now Michael Carberry is in on the act, crunching three fours off four Mitchell McClenaghan deliveries.
7:16pm - That's not the start the visitors wanted! Steven Croft bowls the opening over and sees two of his first three deliveries hit for off-side fours.
6:57pm - The hosts are boosted by having Sohail Tanvir back in their ranks, the all-rounder replacing David Griffiths. Lancashire are without Ashwell Prince, who misses out for personal reasons.
6:49pm - Lancashire have won the toss and elected to bowl, which is no surprise given Hampshire's love of chasing.
6:40pm - Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the third Friends Life t20 quarter-final; defending champions Hampshire Royals are taking on Lancashire Lightning at Ageas Bowl.