For a little over an hour yesterday afternoon Sussex fans' pulses raced and backsides inched to the edge of deckchairs as the home attack reduced the Hampshire upper order to so much rubble.
John Crawley had been making serene progress towards a personal landmark of 1,500 runs in the season, simultaneously towing Hampshire in his steady wake to an inevitable draw, when he was rudely interrupted by Robin Martin-Jenkins and edged low to Jason Lewry at second slip, five runs short of his personal milestone.
When Yasir Arafat removed Chris Benham, and half a dozen balls after that Martin-Jenkins struck again, sending Dominic Thornely's off-stump spinning, Hampshire were teetering and Hove was humming.
Unfortunately, while the departure of Michael Carberry, caught behind off Lewry shortly before tea, conjured up visions of victory, it also brought to the wicket Nic Pothas - who shall henceforth be known to Sussex fans as Old Nic, as he is so devilishly difficult to remove.
Prior to yesterday, he had scored 298 runs in his previous three innings without being dismissed, includingan unbeaten first-innings hundred here. By the time Hampshire declared yesterday, the South African who bears a Greek passport and qualifies for England in November next year had added another 48 undefeated runs to that total.
Still Sussex toiled gamely, but Pothas and his sixth-wicket partner, Sean Ervine, beat them back and held them off, Ervine completing his first fifty of the summer in any competition, in the process.
In reality Sussex's hopes of pulling ahead of Lancashire in the Championship race had long since swirled down the drains at the County Ground as a rain-hit match dribbled to a draw. A total of 91 overs were lost to the weather, effectively the final day, in which a minimum of 96 have to be bowled.
For last year's runners-up, Hampshire, it now looks all over. They are 24 points adrift and effectively out of the title race, but Sussex are still level with Lancashire and have two matches, against Kent and Nottinghamshire (both of them away), in which to secure the title.
At the very least they will need to match their rivals point for point to the end - the pair currently have 201 points - so that, in the event of them being inseparable after the final ball has been bowled, the trophy would return to the South Coast where it was won so nobly three years ago, by virtue of Sussex having won more games (seven) than the Red Rose county (six).
* Daniel Redfern, a 16-year-old for Derbyshire, became the first player born in the 1990s to play a senior match for a first-class county by taking the field against Worcestershire in the Pro40 League yesterday. Redfern's team-mate, Gary Balance, is also 16, but was born in 1989. Unfortunately for the young debutant, Derbyshire lost by 76 runs to Worcestershire, who joined Gloucestershire on 10 points at the top of Second Division at New Road.Reuse content