Northamptonshire were in their fallback position, battling to create a winning platform against Worcestershire at New Road, when events 120 miles away confirmed their promotion from Division Two in the LV= County Championship.
Although a point short of completing the job for themselves after their dismissal for 202, they were safe in the runners-up position three hours later when news came through of Essex’s failure at the Ageas Bowl.
They had to make 400 in 110 overs against Hampshire and then win the game to stay in the hunt but their challenge expired in an unexpected collapse for 207.
Northamptonshire were in the field at Worcester when a ripple of applause around the ground prompted celebratory hugs between the players - and then it was back to the business of trying to sign off the season with a victory.
Worcestershire, having kept the first-innings deficit down to 39, were not in the mood to make things easy for them as they closed on 155 for three , a lead of 116.
Daryl Mitchell was dropped twice in reaching 47 and it was two-and-a-quarter hours before he was finally dislodged when trying to turn a ball from James Middlebrook off his pads after a stand of 77 with Matt Pardoe, who hit 38.
The day ended with a flourish from Moeen Ali as an unbeaten 40 took him to 1,371 runs, the most in this season's championship. Moeen is also the first player to contribute 2,000 runs and 40 wickets across all formats in a county season since Ian Blackwell in 2005.
In the morning, when Northamptonshire continued their first innings from 103 for four, it was clear that Alan Richardson would be the major obstacle if they were to put promotion to bed by scoring 250.
Their fears were confirmed when the 38-year-old sustained his threat for 14 overs and completed his 14th five-wicket return in the championship in four summers with Worcestershire.
Andrew Hall nicked to first slip, Matthew Spriegel did not offer a shot and Steven Crook played round a straight ball. This gave the tireless Richardson a full return of 5-70 and 68 championship wickets for the season.
Northamptonshire stayed in contention while the impressive Rob Keogh was compiling a valuable half-century, but after reaching 200 the innings came to an abrupt and calamitous closure.
David Murphy, having contributed 18 to a stand of 45, refused a single when Keogh, on 57, played to the ball to wide mid-on and Richardson's swift return to the wicketkeeper left Northants' top-scorer stranded at the wrong end.
Murphy was then last out, top-edging a reverse sweep to slip off Moeen.
This passage became irrelevant when Northamptonshire added promotion to the Friends Life t20 trophy and put the seal on an astonishing transformation under David Ripley.
One of the best seasons in their history has come a year after they were second from bottom in the championship and won only two games in limited-overs competitions.