Yorkshire suffered an agonising three-day LV= Insurance County Championship defeat against Essex at Headingley, only just failing to defend a 162 target following heroics from seamers Steve Patterson and Ben Coad.
Yorkshire’s fourth defeat in 12 Division One games, by one wicket and yielding three points, means they go into the final fortnight of the summer still looking over their shoulders at the relegation zone.
But it was oh so nearly very different as Essex slipped from 51-2 to 64-6 after tea before a counter-attacking 65 not out from Shane Snater saw them over the line, despite losing their ninth wicket with the scores level.
Snater hit the winning run, heaving Coad through mid-wicket after the latter had claimed two wickets.
Patterson, meanwhile, claimed a brilliant 5-46 from 16 overs, including three of four which fell in a helter-skelter 13-ball evening spell.
Coad ably backed him up as, between the two of them, they created all sorts of pressure which the Essex top and middle order couldn’t handle.
Unfortunately, a key moment came when George Hill bowled Essex’s Ben Allison with a no ball, which would have left Essex 121-8. Allison survived and completed a 63-run stand for the eighth wicket with Snater.
Coad produced one of two memorable individual performances that did not deserve to go unrewarded, starting with a swashbuckling career best 69 off 70 balls – the highest individual score of the match.
He gave Yorkshire some afternoon respite after they had reached lunch on 179-7 in the second innings having started the day on 87-2.
The seamer was actually the second of two home batters to reach a maiden first-class fifty today, opener Fin Bean the other with 53 in a second-innings 252 all out.
The left-hander drove and cut well during an innings which was largely played out late on day two as he advanced to close on 41 not out.
He was one of the quintet of morning wickets, trapped lbw by a Jamie Porter yorker having earlier reached his half-century off 111 balls.
New ball quick Porter finished with the pick of Essex’s figures, his 4-64 from 19.4 overs including the last two Yorkshire wickets to fall after lunch.
Leg-spinner Matt Critchley struck twice in four overs shortly before lunch. He bowled Will Fraine through the gate and had Jordan Thompson caught at deep mid-wicket, leaving Yorkshire 158-7 with a lead of 67.
Seamers Sam Cook and Ben Allison also struck before lunch under the Headingley floodlights.
Coad and eighth-wicket partner Matthew Revis shared 80. It was the highest partnership of the match, with the lion’s share of the runs coming amidst an entertaining start to the afternoon.
Coad dominated as he chanced his arm against anything full as Essex briefly lost their way.
Having reached a 51-ball fifty in his 51st first-class appearance, he then whipped Critchley for six over mid-wicket before being bowled by one which skidded through by the same bowler (244-9).
Porter wrapped things up with his fourth wicket, that of Steve Patterson caught behind.
But Patterson’s work was by no means finished for the day.
Essex’s top order took the polar opposite approach to Coad with the bat, batting with very little intent.
Such was their slow pace in the latter stages of the afternoon and early evening, Yorkshire always knew two or three quick wickets would put them right back in the hunt.
And they came courtesy of metronomic duo Patterson and Coad.
Jordan Thompson had Nick Browne caught at third slip before tea and Tom Westley sliced Patterson to backward point shortly after, leaving the score at 35-2 in the 20th over.
Then came the turnaround as Patterson wheeled away from the Howard Stand End and Coad from Kirkstall Lane.
Patterson yorked Dan Lawrence playing to leg and superbly held a one-handed diving return catch later in the 26th over to remove Critchley – 51-4.
Coad then trapped Feroze Khushi lbw and Patterson got a flashing Cook caught at slip. By now, Essex were six down 98 short of their target.
By now, Essex had realised they had to break the chain and started to attack. And it worked, but not before George Hill had Adam Rossington caught at short midwicket (93-7).
Snater clattered Patterson for six over long-on and later steering Thompson to the third-man fence twice in an over.
The Dutch international dominated that eighth-wicket partnership with Allison and reached a 38-ball fifty, by which time Essex needed only 20 and the game was back in their control.
In the end, it unfortunately proved a decisive contribution, despite Coad getting Allison caught behind with six still needed and then Patterson bowling Sam Cook with the scores level to finish with a season’s best haul and earn the acclaim of a Headingley faithful who he will soon bid farewell after almost two decades of delighting them.
Yorkshire travel to the Oval to face title-chasing Surrey from Tuesday in the penultimate round of fixtures.
Only tomorrow will they now their exact position in the Division One table given relegation-threatened Warwickshire and Somerset are still battling it out at Edgbaston.