Euan Woods kept Berkshire in the hunt for a fifth straight National Counties Championship with a brilliant all-round performance in their Western Division One match against Cheshire at the Falkland club in Newbury.
After Cheshire slow left-armer David Wainwright had returned his Championship-best figures of six for 38 to help dismiss Berkshire for 190 in their first innings, Woods then triggered a collapse which saw Cheshire lose their last seven wickets for 15 runs.
Woods took five for 17 with his off-breaks while slow left-armers Chris Peploe – who took the new ball – and Luke Beaven took the other five wickets between them.
From 77 for three, Cheshire collapsed to 92 all out and Woods then struck an unbeaten century which helped Berkshire turn a first innings lead of 98 into a potential match-winning one of 350 by the close.
Berkshire were wobbling at 14 for three at one stage but Dan Lincoln helped Woods stabilise the innings with a fourth wicket partnership of 93 in only 13 overs.
Lincoln struck 57 from 38 balls before he became the first of four wickets for debutant Mahaaz Ahmed but Cheshire could not dislodge who reached his fourth Championship century.
To top the division and secure a place in next month’s final, Berkshire need to beat Cheshire and hope that Dorset do them a favour by denying beating leaders Oxfordshire at Wimborne.
The odds on that happening shortened when Oxfordshire slipped to 93 for six but lengthened after Marcus Campopiano and Callum Russell combined in a seventh wicket partnership of 108.
Campopiano fell ten short of a maiden century but Gareth Andrew and Russell 33 more runs for the eighth wicket which helped Oxfordshire build a lead of 106.
Dorset lost three wickets in clearing their arrears and a fourth when they were just two runs in credit but they ended the day 17 ahead thanks to Alex Eckland’s unbeaten half century.
The Eastern Division One title is also up for grabs going into the last day of the regular season with leaders Suffolk on the back foot against third placed Staffordshire at Copdock.
Former Warwickshire wicketkeeper batsman Alex Mellor completed his second Championship century of the summer before Staffordshire were dismissed for 274 in their first innings.
Joe Gatting doubled his previous career Championship wicket tally by taking five for 38 with his off spin.
Suffolk responded with half centuries from Ben Shepperson and Alex Oxley in a fifth wicket stand of 116 before Shepperson became one of four wickets for leg-spinner Zen Malik.
The tail came quietly and Staffordshire, who need to win to have any chance of topping the division, extended their first innings lead of 53 to 240 by the close with Michael Hill unbeaten on 52.
Second placed Norfolk encountered stout resistance from Cambridgeshire, who need to win to avoid relegation, at Wisbech.
Off-spinner Kieren Mackenzie checked Norfolk’s progress with four wickets but Ryan Findlay’s 82 from 68 balls took them to 285 all out and a lead of 108.
Mackenzie then applied himself diligently with the bat, batting for over two hours for his 33 not out which took them into the final day with a lead of two and six wickets in hand.
In Eastern Division Two, Buckinghamshire closed in on victory against Northumberland at Chesham where the visitors ended the day two runs in arrears with only three second innings wickets intact.
Seamer Matt Scott took a career-best six for 54 in Buckinghamshire’s first innings but that was not enough to prevent Northumberland trailing by 96.
Northumberland appeared to be going along nicely in their second innings until the dismissal of John Oswell triggered the loss of three wickets for one run in 12 balls.
Western Division Two champions Herefordshire remain on course for a fourth straight win after they built a commanding lead of 267 against Cornwall at St Austell.
Four wickets from Barney Morgan helped Herefordshire to dismiss Cornwall for 149 in their first innings and solid batting down the order led by Ben Chapman-Lilley’s 66 and Nick Hammond’s 41 took Herefordshire to 163 for five in their second innings.
A short but potentially tense final day is in prospect at Sidmouth where Devon need four wickets to end their season with their first win and Shropshire require 58 for their second successive victory.
A maiden Championship century from all-rounder Calum Haggett lifted Devon from 138 for seven to 242 all out with Worcestershire Academy seamer Mitchell Stanley taking three for 38.
Shropshire made stuttering progress towards a target of 213 with the departure of Graham Wagg, bowled by Matthew Skeemer for 36 just before the close, a key moment.
National Counties Championship (Day 2 of 3)
Eastern Division One
Wisbech: Cambridgeshire 177 (Kieran Mackenzie 81 not out) & 110-4, Norfolk 285 (Ryan Findlay 82).
Copdock: Staffordshire 206-5 (Alex Mellor 130, Joe Gatting 5-38) & 187-4 (Michael Hill 52 not out), Suffolk 221-9 dec (Ben Shepperson 73, Alex Oxley 55).
Eastern Division Two
Chesham: Northumberland 139 (Matthew Oswell 57) & 94-7,Buckinghamshire 235 (Matt Scott 6-54).
Hertford: Hertfordshire v Cumbria. Abandoned. Hertfordshire (8pts), Cumbria (8pts)
Western Division One
Falkland CC (Newbury): Berkshire 190 (David Wainwright 6-38) & 252-9, (Euan Woods 122 not out, Dan Lincoln 57), Cheshire 92 (Euan Woods 5-17).
Wimborne: Dorset 129 (Harry Fisher 50) & 123-4 (Alex Eckland 53 not out), Oxfordshire 235-8 (Marcus Campopiano 90, Callum Russell 65).
Western Division Two
St Austell: Herefordshire 236 (Matt Pardoe 85, Zain Ul Hassan 50) & 163-5 (Ben Chapman-Lilley 66), Cornwall 149.
Sidmouth: Devon 148 (Graham Wagg 5-16) & 242 (Calum Haggett 109), Shropshire 178 (Graham Wagg 109) & 155-6.