Nottinghamshire's chances of capturing the County Championship for the second time in three years took a backward step as they were beaten by 16 runs by Durham in a gripping contest that went down to the penultimate over. The all-rounder Mark Wood took 5 for 78.
It is a first defeat of the 2012 season for Chris Read's team but leaves them 18 points behind leaders Warwickshire, who have four matches left to their three.
There may yet be a twist or two before the season ends on 14 September, with Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire still to meet twice. But there was a feeling in the Trent Bridge dressing room before this match that it was one they needed to win. The denouement of this match turned from what looked for a while as though it might be a stroll for the home side to a battle between batsmen and bowlers after Durham finally found a way to part Nottinghamshire's openers, Riki Wessels and Alex Hales.
With the pitch flattening out compared in particular with the second day, when England's Graham Onions arrived from being stood down at Lord's to take 9 for 67, Wessels and Hales put on 168 in 42.1 overs with no one, Onions included, able to trouble either man unduly until Wessels, within two runs of a third century of the season, steered a ball from Chris Rushworth into the hands of one of two gullies. At that point, a target of 366 in 90 overs looked well within Nottinghamshire's scope, even though it would have been the fourth highest total they had chased down for victory in their history.
But then Michael Lumb top edged a sweep off Scott Borthwick, the leg spinner, to be caught at short fine leg and Adam Voges was caught behind for two as Onions at last found a bit of swing. Hales completed his first century of the season but was leg before soon afterwards to a full length ball from Mark Wood, who then dealt Nottinghamshire another blow when he bowled Read.
Nottinghamshire needed exactly 100 from the last 25 overs, with five wickets in hand, and kept looking for opportunities, with little to be gained from a draw. But Durham kept chipping away in search of wickets, knowing that a third win off the reel since Paul Collingwood took over the captaincy would see them clear of the relegation places after a long time bottom of the table. Borthwick accounted for both Paul Franks and Graeme White in quick succession and Nottinghamshire felt the loss of James Taylor and Samit Patel, taken from them by international calls.
Collingwood turned down the chance to take the new ball, Steven Mullaney kept Nottinghamshire's hopes alive with an unbeaten 60 and when Ben Phillips took three boundaries in a row off Borthwick the home side sensed they could steal victory, needing 42 off as many balls.
But then Phillips pulled Wood straight to midwicket and the all-rounder Wood completed the job. He bowled Luke Fletcher twice –once off a no-ball, then with a legitimate one next delivery – and then trapped Andy Carter in front, finishing with a career-best return as Durham won with just eight balls to spare.