Tomlinson denies Essex
James Tomlinson was the hero as Hampshire collected a thrilling two-run victory over Essex in their LV=County Championship Division Two clash at Chelmsford.
The left-arm fast bowler took 5-86, including the wicket of Adam Wheater who was last man out for 98, as Essex fell tantalisingly short of their 360 target.
Wheater's swashbuckling innings spanning 111 deliveries contained four sixes and a dozen fours before he holed out to Sean Ervine on the long-on boundary.
Earlier, Tomlinson seemed to have put the visitors in sight of a comfortable triumph when he roared in after lunch with three quick wickets.
Essex, who had resumed on 102 for two, reached the interval on 184 for four after losing overnight pair Mark Pettini and Billy Godleman to Dimitri Mascarenhas in the first hour.
A half-century partnership between Ryan ten Doeschate and Greg Smith revived Essex and sent them into lunch with the match nicely poised.
But then Tomlinson was to get rid of both for 42; Smith drove to Jimmy Adams at extra cover and ten Doeschate then cut into the hands of Neil McKenzie at gully.
Soon afterwards and with 12 runs added, Graham Napier drive to Adams to give Tomlinson his third success in a 22-ball spell costing only five runs.
That left Essex 222 for seven and defeat staring them in the face, but they were to stage an exciting fightback through the heroics of Wheater and the aggression of Harbhajan Singh.
The duo put on 68 in 16 overs before Harbhajan was stumped for 40 - having struck six fours and a maximum - by Michael Bates after giving left-arm spinner Danny Briggs the charge.
That was the signal for Wheater to step up a gear and, after David Masters fell lbw to Briggs, he scored all 40 of a last-wicket partnership with Tom Craddock that included two successive sixes out of the ground against paceman David Balcombe.
But just when a brilliant victory beckoned, he found the hands of Ervine to leave the Hampshire players jumping around in celebration.
Wheater looked crestfallen as he made his way off the field, no doubt aware that his failure to take Essex to the winning post had dealt a severe setback to their hopes of promotion.
They came out of the game with 3 points while Hampshire collected 19 to keep alive their dreams of returning to the top-flight at the first attempt very much alive.