Durham are not taking anything for granted but the Championship pennant is unlikely to be coming down the Riverside flagpole this season. A sixth win yesterday and the failure of any of their rivals to sustain a challenge makes them odds-on favourites to retain the title.
Sussex had been under the pump since Michael Di Venuto's career-best 254 and it was fitting that the Tasmanian left-hander was at the crease as Durham completed a nine-wicket win 50 minutes after lunch, Di Venuto completing 1,000 first-class runs this season in his undefeated 39. The only blemish on their victory was a one-point deduction for a slow over rate.
There was some resistance from Sussex yesterday, in particular from the all-rounder Luke Wright whose second successive Championship hundred offered further evidence that he is maturing into a potential England Test all-rounder of the future.
The England selector James Whittaker was impressed with his bowling in Durham's first innings but was not here yesterday to see Wright complete the sixth first-class hundred of his career in thrilling fashion by hooking successive bouncers from Steve Harmison for six, the second of which carried 120 yards before landing on the banks of the River Wear.
The way in which Wright and No 10 Corey Collymore negotiated Harmison made one wonder how Sussex could have lost 14 wickets on the third day. Wright finished undefeated on 118 from 128 deliveries, an innings that included 18 boundaries. He had earlier extended his sixth-wicket stand with Andrew Hodd to 112 in 26 overs before Hodd was foxed by Mark Davies's slower ball.
Harmison was able to bowl 6.3 overs despite the continued discomfort of a badly blistered big toe and had the satisfaction of finishing off Sussex with successive balls. Afterwards the Durham coach, Geoff Cook, confirmed he would be fit to join up with the England squad tomorrow ahead of the fourth Test against Australia, which begins on Friday.
Cook said: "His big toe is an open wound and his foot is a mess. It looks nasty but if England want him he will be there."