Hamish Rutherford powered Essex Eagles towards the knockout stages of the Friends Life t20, striking 84 from 43 balls in a comprehensive seven-wicket win over Sussex Sharks at the BrightonandHoveJobs.com County Ground.
The New Zealand opener's competition-best helped the visitors cruise to a target of 147 with 17 balls to spare and move above Middlesex Panthers into second place in the South Group.
Rutherford was brutal through the off side, where he struck four of his five sixes. He also hit nine fours before being stumped to give leg-spinner Will Beer his second wicket in the 14th over, with just 13 runs required.
Rutherford and opening partner Greg Smith knocked off more than half of the runs when sharing 78 in Essex’s six-over powerplay.
Smith fell for 42 in the 12th over, smartly stumped by debutant Callum Jackson, but it was a rare moment of relief for Sussex, who have won just one of their eight matches.
The Sharks made 146 for eight after winning the toss, a score that never looked like being enough on a good pitch with a lightning-fast outfield.
Their batting was a reflection of their tournament so far, with several batsmen getting starts but none able to play the commanding innings required.
Accurate seam bowling restricted Sussex to 40 runs from the first six overs and, when they tried to accelerate, their progress was then checked by the regular loss of wickets.
Dwayne Smith, who has failed to recapture the form that proved so decisive when Sussex won the tournament in 2009, made 25 before holing out to deep midwicket and David Masters struck again in the 13th over as Rory Hamilton-Brown was strangled down the leg side for 31.
Essex's most impressive bowler was Reece Topley. Having been hit out of the ground by Scott Styris for six, he switched to bowling round the wicket and had the New Zealander held on the boundary next ball.
Skipper Chris Nash also looked capable of providing some acceleration until he was caught off a top edged-pull to give the otherwise wayward Shaun Tait his only wicket.
Topley returned to take three wickets in the final over for a return of 4-26.