Essex Eagles returned to winning ways in the Friends Life t20 with a six-wicket triumph over Sussex Sharks in front of a near-capacity crowd in Chelmsford.
Even though they were hit with a 12-run penalty - added to the Sharks' total - because of their failure to bowl 20 overs in the permitted time, Essex still had enough in reserve as they chased down Sussex's 171 for nine with four deliveries to spare to stay in touch with the South Group front-runners.
After openers Hamish Rutherford and Greg Smith departed cheaply, Ravi Bopara - playing as a specialist batsman despite a side strain - and Owais Shah seized the initiative for the Eagles with a partnership of 56 in six overs before the former was caught in the deep off Dwayne Smith.
Bopara's 35 came off 21 balls and contained three fours and two sixes, while Shah made 40 from 36 with four fours and two sixes before he holed out off the nagging spin of Michael Yardy.
Essex entered the final five overs needing 51 yet that did not prove a problem as Ryan ten Doeschate and James Foster - with 42 and 27 respectively - struck a series of lusty blows in an unbeaten stand of 57.
Ten Doeschate's innings included two fours and two sixes while Foster helped himself to three fours and a maximum in his 15-ball cameo.
Essex's success was in complete contrast to their last sprint-format outing, when they were crushed by eight wickets against Middlesex after recording their lowest total - 74 - in the competition.
Sussex had looked set for better when reaching the halfway stage on 95 for one, only to lose their way as Matt Machan departed six runs later having contributed 57 from 30 balls with the help of eight fours and a six.
He was trapped lbw by left-arm spinner Tim Philips, paving the way for Australian pace bowler Shaun Tait to run through the middle order on his way to 4-26.
Rory Hamilton-Brown did his best to keep the Sussex innings afloat before he succumbed to Reece Topley for 43.
Even with the gift of 12 runs, the visitors could only manage 53 from the final five overs and their failure to find momentum during that crucial stage was to cost them dearly.