Somerset completed a crushing 212-run win over Essex at Colchester with more than a day to spare to maintain the status quo among the top three contenders in what promises to be a close finish to the County Championship.
Victory for Marcus Trescothick's side – their fifth in eight matches – follows Nottinghamshire's two-day win against ailing Warwickshire and Yorkshire's defeat of the 2008 and 2009 champions, Durham.
Six points cover the three leaders, with Nottinghamshire top of the pile on 176, followed by Somerset on 172 and Yorkshire 170. The Trent Bridge side have the advantage of four games still to play against three for the other two, however.
Each of the trio has two home fixtures left. Somerset face Durham and Lancashire at Taunton and finish away to Durham. Yorkshire take on Hampshire at Scarborough and Kent at Headingley, while Nottinghamshire, who have to play Lancashire at home and away and Durham in Chester-le-Street, have what may amount to a title decider at Trent Bridge on 7 September, when Yorkshire are the visitors.
Somerset's win yesterday always looked a formality with two days left as Essex, who now look doomed to relegation, resumed at 38-1 in pursuit of a theoretical 432 to win. As the home side slipped to 127-5 at lunch, their chances of even detaining their guests for a fourth day looked remote after some fine bowling in particular from all-rounder Peter Trego, who bowled Ashes hopeful Ravi Bopara for 15 and stopped Billy Godleman's progress on 53.
Trego struck again shortly after lunch, taking a return catch off Mark Pettini, before seamer Zander de Bruyn stepped up to take the last four wickets, gaining his first success when James Foster was caught down the leg side by Craig Kieswetter to end a seventh-wicket stand of 48 with Ryan ten Doeschate.
Ten Doeschate's 41 off 74 balls was the only lasting resistance from Essex but he was eventually bowled by his fellow South African de Bruyn, who finished the job when Danish Kaneria skied his first delivery to long leg.
A patient 120, spanning five and a half hours from Shivnarine Chanderpaul helped Lancashire set Kent a challenging target of 339 in four sessions at Canterbury, where the visitors, who need to win to stay in touch with the leading trio in the title race, were all out for 321.
The West Indian, out first ball in the first innings, anchored stands of 78 for the fourth wicket with Steven Croft and 89 for the fifth with Gareth Cross, who completed a 92-ball 50 before being bowled by Matt Coles.
Coles had Luke Sutton caught at third slip before Glen Chapple was stumped by Geraint Jones off James Tredwell but Saj Mahmood hit three fours and two sixes in an unbeaten 41, putting on 48 for the eighth wicket with Chanderpaul, whose knock ended when Kent took the second new ball and Simon Cook, who finished the innings with decent figures of 4-62, trapped him leg before.
Mahmood added valuable runs with the tail, and assisted in a last-wicket stand of 17 by Gary Keedy, facing 10 balls without scoring before being caught at mid-wicket off Tredwell.
Kent soon lost opener Joe Denly, bowled by Chapple for 12, as they began the chase.
Sussex took a 20-point lead in Division Two when they completed a victory by an innings and 109 against Derbyshire at Horsham.
Their bottom-of-the-table opponents were bowled out for 225 some 20 minutes before the scheduled tea interval on the third day.
Corey Collymore was rewarded for some excellent quick bowling with figures of 4-50 and spinner Monty Panesar took 4-57.
Sussex have a chance to effectively wrap up the title when second-placed Glamorgan visit Hove next week.