Despite Tynemouth putting in their worst batting performance of the season, the high-flying Seasiders still managed to record a thrilling victory against Eppleton.
This was mainly due to the fine bowling of Andrew Smith and club professional Tahir Khan.
Skipper Ben Debnam won the toss and elected to bat on a wicket that looked green and a shade under cooked.
Debnam was perhaps regretting his decision ten minutes later when the scoreboard read 3-3 and he was out alongside fellow opener Nick Armstrong and Matthew Brown.
Liam Dixon removed all three with his medium-quick away swingers, and when he also removed Smith and Khan, the home side were in trouble at 19-5.
Some determined resistance from Graeme Hallam, Chris Fairley, Anthony Turner and Matty McDine followed, but runs remained hard to come by and the introduction of young Jamaican leg spinner Abhijal Mansingh proved to be a master stroke as he and the returning Dixon cleaned out the tail and the home side were dismissed for a disappointing 73.
Dixon with 6-22 off 15 overs was the pick of the Eppleton bowlers but, despite helpful bowling conditions, the Tynemouth batsmen should have done much better.
With such a poor score to defend and strike bowler Finn Lonnberg missing, Debnam chose to open the bowling with the out-swing of the in-form Smith and the off-spin of the on song Tahir Khan, a decision that proved to be critical.
Eppleton opener Kyle Davis appeared unlucky to be given out caught behind by Brown off Smith in the first over, but then Mansingh and Musther took the score on to 22-1 before Mansingh was adjudged lbw again to Smith.
This wicket proved crucial and from then on Eppleton’s batting crumbled under immense pressure applied by Khan and Smith.
Khan turned the ball and the screw at the Rugby end, producing fine figures of 3-22 off 11 overs, while at the Golf Course end, Smith swung the ball and the game with outstanding figures of 6-37 off 11 overs.
It was Smith who removed last man Smithson with the score on just 60 to electrify the celebrations. The result was a win as thrilling as it was unexpected.
With Chester-le-Street winning their top of the table encounter at South Northumberland, the Cestrians look likely to win the NEPL this season, but Tynemouth’s win lifted them to third place and with just two games to play they are now certain of a top four finish and hopeful of perhaps even taking runners-up spot.
On Saturday, Benwell Hill visit Preston Avenue in the final home game of the season with an 11am start.
The second team won their fixture at Sacriston despite late call-offs by four players which devastated the third team squad.
The thirds hosted Backworth’s second string. Both sides were short of regular players but this was still an enjoyable game.
Ed Snelders won the toss and asked the visitors to bat first. Two early wickets for young Will Perry was a great start with club coach Steve Williams making a rare appearance and able to encourage the youngsters drafted in to the side.
Backworth opener Graeme Fairbairn looked solid and batted on for 87 and had with him Matthew Burtenshaw who scored 30 in a long third wicket stand that frustrated Tynemouth.
Snelders bowled a tight seven overs spell for just 14 runs and Don Catley also failed to collect a scalp with 36 coming off his ten overs.
Backworth progressed to 165-6 with another two wickets for Perry, 4-49 off ten, and Williams 2-22 off seven including bowling Fairbairn. At least this gave three bowling points, if an unlikely run chase.
Tynemouth opened with Mike McIntyre and Ben Chater facing the tight bowling of Steve Black and the swinging pace of Burtenshaw.
With the sun fading, paint took a long time to dry as Tynemouth crawled to 20 off 18 overs and the loss of the two openers to Black.
Williams came in at number three and impressed with subtle singles and selective boundary hitting to reach 51 before Black returned to bowl him.
Young Joe Snowden impressed with a supporting 14 and there was a cameo of eight from Catley, but Tynemouth were dismissed for just 90 in the 36th over.
Black took 5-10 off 9.2 overs including the tail mopping operation. Young Joel Langley recorded a useful 2-14 off his five overs.