Without a Championship century since 2009, Tim Ambrose experienced personal frustration mixed with the compensatory satisfaction of a match-winning performance as Warwickshire completed a five-wicket win over Surrey at The Oval to move into a15-point lead in the First Division.
Needing only 41 more to reach a target of 222 on the final day, Warwickshire wrapped things up in little more than half an hour. Ambrose, the former England wicketkeeper, was left stranded on 89 after Rikki Clarke took the initiative against his former county, his unbeaten 40 including three boundaries in one over off the pace bowler Stuart Meaker as Surrey's slender chance of snatching victory slipped away.
The captain Jim Troughton hailed Ambrose's innings as "fantastic" given that Warwickshire had been 37 for 4 on Friday as the off-spinner, Gareth Batty, exploited a sun-baked surface.
"Batty bowled very well in both innings but Tim played fantastically well, as did Will Porterfield, who as a left-hander gave the bowler a bit more rough to play with," Troughton said.
As much as Ambrose and Porterfield were the match-winners with the bat, Jeetan Patel's 6-95 were a significant influence on the outcome as Surrey were restricted to 245 in their second innings on a good batting surface.
Patel was outshone by his fellow off-spinner, Batty, who finished with 10 wickets in a match for only the second time in his career but admitted he would have swapped his figures for a win. "I would have been happy with none for 300 had we taken 20 points," he said.
Nottinghamshire will trim Warwickshire's lead if they can engineer a win at Hove, where their match against Sussex is only at the halfway stage. Samit Patel and James Taylor, their England Lions batsmen, both failed to take advantage of friendly conditions but after Alex Hales and Riki Wessels shared an opening stand of 171, Wessels completed a second century in only five Championship innings and was unbeaten on 184 at the close as Nottinghamshire edged in front.
Lancashire, whose title defence seems already a lost cause, hoped to land a first win of the season after giving themselves three-and-a-half sessions to bowl out Middlesex at Liverpool but a flat pitch offered little help and an unbeaten 138 from Australian left-hander Chris Rogers secured a comfortable draw as Middlesex, set a target of 429, finished on 265 for 1.
Off-spinner James Middlebrook was the key to a Northamptonshire victory over Gloucestershire at Wantage Road, taking four of the last five wickets to finish with 5 for 63.
Struggling Glamorgan, meanwhile, lost their last six wickets for 63 as they suffered a fifth defeat in seven matches, enabling Hampshire to win by 31 runs and go third in the table.