On the day that South Shields’ relegation from the Premier Division was finally confirmed, there was high drama in the race to take their place.
Sacriston began the day in pole position in the First Division, but crashed to a shock defeat at Boldon where they were unable to chase down a target of 186 set by the home team. And just a few miles down the road at Whitburn, who already knew that Brandon had won and overtaken Sacriston, an ecstatic home team held their nerve to claim the ultimate prize.
Shields expected defeat came on Teesside at the hands of newly crowned champions Stockton who, despite missing both of their Durham stars, still managed to win comfortably enough to leave the visitors some 38 points adrift of second bottom Gateshead Fell - and thus beyond redemption.
At least Shields did put up a decent enough fight, bowling their hosts out for 203 in 48 overs with Gordon Muchall picking up five of the wickets, but his Durham colleague Josh Bousfield hit a late unbeaten half century which helped the new title holders to recover from 133 for seven as he shared a 62-run eighth wicket stand with Tom Coulthard (32).
Muchall then held the Shields reply together as wickets fell around him, but after sliding to 68 for six even his skill wasn’t enough and when he was eventually out for 52 the end came quickly as Jimmy Ward bagged a seven wicket haul.
The final First Division day of the season dawned with an expectant Sacriston travelling to Boldon knowing that a victory would be enough for them to realise their title winning dream and earn promotion to the top table of regional cricket.
And when they held their hosts to what looked like a manageable total of 186 for nine after inserting them they looked to be on course, Graham Hubber’s three wickets seemingly giving them the upper hand despite a battling half century from home skipper Chris Ellison.
The reply started soundly enough as Tony Claughan (41) and Harry Hubber (43) shared a third wicket stand of 55 which lifted Sacriston to 92 for two, but needing only 95 more to take the title the introduction of Lawrence Wood (3-24) and Masood Mirza (3-31) to the home attack proved to be the stuff of nightmares for Sacriston who slumped alarmingly as their last eight wickets went down for the addition of just 56 more runs.
With Brandon having already brushed aside the challenge of Felling by six wickets to pick up 29 points it was they who suddenly emerged as the potential champions as victory lifted them two points above the crestfallen Sacriston, so nothing less than victory from Whitburn was needed to secure the ultimate prize.
And they were doing everything right in their home game against Washington. Stuart Walker was once again their batting inspiration, hitting 11 fours and 4 sixes in a 71-ball 92, and with Ross Carty anchoring with an unbeaten 58 the home side declared their innings on 250 for five after 48 overs.
With half the job done Whitburn still needed to bowl Washington out to realise their dreams, and all the while Matty Potts (43) and Dan Woolston (42) were sharing a defiant third wicket partnership, with Ash Thorpe following on with 36, the tension was increasing.
But once an end was opened up Steve Jones, 6-39 from 14 overs, and Mark Elliott, 3-42 from 12 overs, scythed through Washington, the final wicket falling with seven overs to go to deliver a golden 29 run victory and return Whitburn to the top of a table they had led for much of the season at the crucial time.