MOORE and Smalley Palace Shield leaders Great Eccleston suffered their second defeat of the season, beaten by four wickets at third-placed BAC-EE Preston.
In a rain-reduced match, the visitors were restricted to 157-3 in 29 overs.
Mohamed Nadeem continued the outstanding form which had seen him score centuries in two of the previous three premier division games, making an unbeaten 58, while opener James Thistlethwaite contributed 43.
But even Nadeem was outscored by BAC-EE opener Alex Unsworth, whose superb 74 enabled the hosts to seal victory with two balls to spare, ensuring that Lee Yeoman’s 4-31 was in vain.
Despite this reversal, Ecc have increased their lead from one point to two because closest rivals Penwortham lost at home to Garstang by the same margin.
Ian Walling took a remarkable 8-37 off 15 overs, including all the Penwortham top five, to dismiss the visitors for 107 in 29.2 overs, Chris Flintoff and Nick Whiteman both scoring 31.
Fourth-placed Garstang reached their target from exactly the same number of deliveries despite three wickets apiece for Ashit Jariwala and Jon Roebuck. Opener Michael Walling was the hosts’ top batsman with 28.
Fylde coast clubs continue to occupy three of the final four positions, though Thornton Cleveleys are now bringing up the rear after New Longton climbed off the bottom with a three-wicket win at Norcross.
Paul Haydock paved the way for Longton’s second win of the season by taking 6-45 as Norcross were dismissed for 108 in 29 overs (Naveed Yousaf 36).
Opener Paul Fairhurst was then the only Longton batsman to reach double figures but won the match singlehanded with 63 despite a fine all-round display by Yousaf, who took 3-28 off 14 overs.
Fylde remain third-bottom after their five-wicket home defeat by Longridge.
Darren Mackenzie’s unbeaten 73 included ten fours as the home side posted 163-6 in their 45 overs (Daniel Smith 33). But Longridge reached their target with 2.2 overs to spare thanks largely to 63 from opener Neil Holden before he was run out.
Thornton Cleveleys lost by five wickets at Vernon Carus, having made 177-4 off 43 overs.
It’s two defeats in three games for first division leaders Freckleton, surprisingly beaten by a single wicket in a nailbiter at Hoghton.
The hosts won with a ball to spare thanks to Phil Hurst’s unbeaten 91 batting No.6. Ian Snape took 4-41 and Daniel Fisher 3-66.
Freckleton had batted solidly to post 185-5 in a match reduced to 43 overs each.
Joshua Holden led the way with 59, while the previous Saturday’s centurion Gary Fiddler, fellow opener Jamie Reddy and unbeaten James Whitehead all reached the 30s.
Despite this setback, Freck’s lead has grown from eight points to nine because second-placed Torrisholme lost by ten runs at Fulwood & Broughton Seconds.
Leaders South Shore remain unbeaten ten matches into their division two campaign following a five-wicket success at Charnock Richard.
This match was reduced to 30 overs apiece but Shore needed only 27 to dispose of their hosts for 78. Shore then paced themselves to reach their target in 26.1.
Kirkham & Wesham made it five wins on the bounce with a 149-run thumping of hosts Norcross Seconds.
The fourth-placed club piled on 224-9 in their 45 overs. Most of the scoring was done by the top three of Michael Brooks (61), Richard Molyneux (57) and Derek Tucker (73) before Norcross were skittled out for 75 in 32.4 overs. It was Molyneux’s second successive half-century.
Wrea Green climbed a spot to third-bottom with their third win of the season.