Durham's bid to regain the County Championship they surrendered to Nottinghamshire last year is not quite over but hangs by a thread after the reigning champions consigned them to a third defeat in four matches. Chasing 321 to secure the win that would take them back in front of Lancashire, they were bowled out for 253 as Notts completed victory inside three days.
Chris Read's side conceded defeat in the title race some weeks ago but still have a chance of top-four prize-money and may have a further say in determining who succeeds them when they face Warwickshire in their penultimate game.
Durham stay 10 points behind Lancashire and will drop back to third if Warwickshire beat Yorkshire at Headingley. What's more, they have only two matches left, while the other three contenders, including Somerset, all have three.
One down for 20 overnight, Durham lost a wicket to the fourth ball of the day when Michael di Venuto edged the ever-threatening Andre Adams to wicketkeeper Read and another in the fifth over when nightwatchman Mitch Claydon was trapped on the crease by the same bowler.
They still had a chance when Mark Stoneman and Paul Collingwood combined grittily in the longest partnership of the match, negotiating 27 overs through to lunch without further loss and adding 83 runs. But the tide turned when Collingwood was out to the fourth ball of the afternoon, driving at Darren Pattinson, and the loss soon afterwards of Dale Benkenstein, who miscued a pull against Adams, effectively ended their hopes.
Stoneman, who grafted magnificently for more than three hours for his 74, was unluckily out, jamming a full-length ball from Luke Fletcher into his stumps via a boot, after which left-arm spinner Graeme White took the last four wickets.
Durham had looked favourites for a third title in four years when they went 23 points clear in June but have since lost momentum and the absence of Ben Stokes and Graham Onions on England duty this week – and, potentially, for the rest of the season – could not have come at a worse moment.
"We still have a chance if others slip up but realistically it is going to be tough from here," Durham's director of cricket, Geoff Cook, conceded.