A surprise result in Division One of the Theakston Nidderdale League had huge ramifications at both ends of the table on the penultimate weekend of the 2019 season.
Kirk Deighton’s win over Birstwith not only dented their opponents’ title hopes while securing their own top-flight status, but also relegated Dacre Banks and Masham.
Defending champions Birstwith came into Saturday’s fixture within touching distance of top spot having won all of their previous 11 completed fixtures.
They were however left needing 223 runs for victory after their relegation-threatened hosts put a decent total on the board, thanks largely to Phillip Schofield’s knock of 67 lower down the order.
Richard Ward (31) also contributed, while George Hirst was the pick of the away attack, claiming 4-48.
Birstwith’s powerful batting line-up has plundered plenty of runs both this season and last, and Hirst’s quick-fire 87 from 89 deliveries seemingly had them on course for another important win.
Deighton had other ideas however, bowling their visitors out in the 43rd over, just eight runs shy of their target.
Skipper Ward, Mark Harland and Jon Watkins all bagged a brace of wickets for the home team to leave them 21 points clear of the bottom two with only one round of fixtures remaining.
Birstwith drop down to third as a result of their defeat, 11 points behind league leaders Darley, who were involved in another dramatic conclusion on the road at Ouseburn.
The hosts racked up 233/7 from their 45 overs, Elijah Panetta (52), Ben Jones (46), Ben Mackril (40) and Chris Atkinson (34) all in decent form with willow in hand.
Jim Grange took three scalps for Darley, then backed that up with a score of 39, adding to the efforts of Bailey Nylander (57), Jordan King (44) and Odin Duesbury (40).
With two full overs remaining and just six more runs required for the win, bad light forced the players off and resulted in the game being abandoned with the visitors 228/6.
Both sides were awarded 13 points for their efforts, a return that is enough to keep Darley top of the pile and in control of their own destiny.
Now second in the first division standings, Goldsborough remain poised to capitalise on any slip-ups on the final weekend of the campaign.
Graham Shorter’s men crushed Helperby with Australian Jarrod McPhee doing much of the damage.
His unbeaten century (105) came from only 84 deliveries and laid the foundations for the away side’s score of 238/1.
Will Pleming (85 not out) played his part as well before McPhee again took centre stage when Helperby took their turn at the crease.
He finished the afternoon with incredible figures of 6-10, sending the hosts packing with just 90 on the board.
Goldsborough and Birstwith will now need to better the result of Darley on the final weekend of the season if they are to overtake them at the top of the table, while the league leaders know that a return of 12 points or more this Saturday will see them crowned champions regardless of what happens elsewhere.
Basement boys Masham fell through the relegation trap-door despite a 24-run home triumph over Burton Leonard.
Simon Wordsworth (67) weighed in with a half-century to guide the strugglers to 207/7, Sam Crompton taking four of the wickets to fall.
Opener Laurie O’Connor struck 50 to get the Burton reaply off to a decent start, however despite Andy Heard snapping up 6-47 to lead Masham to only their fourth success of 2019, it wasn’t enough to keep his team’s survival hopes alive.
Dacre Banks were also condemned to the drop following a crushing defeat at Pateley Bridge.
The Badgers posted 269/7, Chris Langley smashing 115 from 106 deliveries.
Dacre were then dismissed for just 96 in response, Luke Clarke scooping 4-25.
Elsewhere, a knock of 91 by Sam Wyatt helped Wath & Melmerby to 246/7 and victory over West Tanfield, who were bowled out for 183 despite 40 from the bat of Jonny Luty.