A Northern League record innings of 227 by Blackpool professional Christi Viljoen ultimately counted for little as his side were held to a home draw by rock-bottom Preston, effectively ending their hopes of retaining the first division title.
Fleetwood’s professional Dave King was also in outstanding form but his side too were forced to settle for a winning draw at Penrith on a day Morecambe took a massive step towards their first title since 2006.
Stanley Park witnessed the shock of the season as Preston avoided defeat for only the second time all year against the champions, despite Viljoen’s monumental knock.
Having been put into bat, Blackpool were in early strife at 7-2 before Viljoen came in at number four and began a blitz which saw league records tumble.
The Namibian faced 156 balls in his 166-minute knock, scoring 24 fours and 11 sixes.
He first century came off 98 balls and the second off just 49.
Viljoen shared in a fourth-wicket stand of 180 with wicketkeeper Ben Howarth, who scored his league first half-century on his way to 55 from 78 balls.
The pro also put on 85 for the sixth wicket with Michael Penney before being the last man out, the Blackpool innings closing on a colossal 349-6.
However, Preston survived for the draw with unimaginable comfort, closing on 188-3 as prolific strike bowlers Viljoen and Richard Gleeson managed just a single wicket between them in 19 overs.
Former Blackpool player Gurman Bains shared a second-wicket stand of 59 with opener Sajid Patel before adding 87 for the third wicket with Rehman Shah.
Shah finished unbeaten on 69, having hit nine fours in a 104-ball innings, while Bains fired 10 fours in a 116-ball 61 as Blackpool’s winless run stretched to a fourth game.
With just two matches left, Paul Danson’s fourth-placed champions are 26 points behind Morecambe, who have a game in hand.
Morecambe won the battle of the top two against Darwen by 37 runs to open up a 14-point lead at the top.
Third-placed Fleetwood are just about in the hunt but must beat Blackpool in today’s Broadwater derby after a rain-delayed start at Penrith, which reduced their match to 40 overs a side, cost them dear.
King made up for lost time after Fleetwood were put in at Tynefield Park, scoring his fifth century of a fabulous season in which the Australian has now scored 1,366 runs.
The pro carried his bat for an unbeaten 109 in Fleettwood’s 203-5, striking six fours and as many sixes in a 133-ball innings.
King put on 113 for the opening wicket with Adam Parker, who scored exactly 50, his second half-century of the campaign.
King then did his utmost to wrap up victory as his best bowling of the season, 5-55 in an unbroken spell of 20 overs, saw the hosts slip from 50-1 to 59-5.
However, with those 10 fewer overs to negotiate Penrith held out at 136-6. leaving Fleetwood 22 points behind Morecambe.
Victory over Blackpool will lift Fleetwood into second place as Darwen are without a match. But any slip-ups by Mat Clark’s side could see Morcambe virtually secure the title this afternoon with a win at Lancaster, who were winners by 85 runs at St Annes on Saturday.
St Annes are back in the bottom two after putting Lancaster in at Vernon Road and seeing them reach 240-7.
Next season’s captain Matt Grindley took 4-61 from 16 overs but could not prevent number three Rameez Raja making exactly 100 off 113 balls (nine fours, three sixes), while captain Ben Simm finished unbeaten on 59 at number six.
St Annes were then dismissed for 155 in 39.2 overs as number 10 Mitchell Bolus emerged top scorer with 44 from 28 balls, 40 of those runs in boundaries, including two sixes. Raja completed his fine day with 4-72 from 18 overs. St Annes head to Chorley today.
n Lytham made it back-to-back wins in the Liverpool Competition with an impressive seven-wicket victory over Bootle at Church Road.
Bootle chose to bat but were pavilion-bound for 177 in 45.3 overs despite an opening 60 between captain Craig Prince (40) and David Snellgrove.
Wicketkeeper Neil Williams made a late, unbeaten 42 but seven of his team-mates were out for 10 or under as Daniel Edwards took 4-21 from 8.3 overs. There were three wickets apiece for Luke Williams (for 47 off 20 overs) and Thomas Hessey (for 64 of 12).
Lytham sealed victory at 178-3 from 43.2 overs, Will Hale giving them a solid start with 49 before an unbroken fourth-wicket stand of 86 between overseas professional Dom O’Brien (61 from 78 balls, nine fours) and captain Guy Roberts (41) wrapped it up. This sixth win in the ECB premier league leaves Roberts’ side eighth with three to play.
n The Palace Shield title race is still virtually neck and neck between leaders Great Eccleston and Freckleton. Just one point separates them after both won away.
And Garstang aren’t out of it after winning at Longridge to replace them in third spot.
Both Kirkham and Wesham and Wrea Green hover just above the relegation zone after their latest division one defeats, while South Shore’s division two promotion bid was dented by defeat at home to Whittle and Clayton-le-Woods.
Premier division: BAC/EE Preston (84) lost to Fulwwod and Broughton (175-9) by 91 runs, Hoghton (43 ) lost to Croston (111-5) by 68 runs, Longridge (201-9, L Platt 100no) lost to Garstang (210-8, M Walling 67, T Wells 45, A Mason 6-70) by nine runs,Penwortham (71, J Millward 3-17, M Rigby 3-26) lost to Freckleton (74-3) by seven wickets, Thornton Cleveleys (149-9, D Smith 3-41, A Ellison 3-45) lost to Fylde (194-6, D Crawforth 83, T Cornall 3-43) by 45 runs, Vernon Carus (177) lost to Great Eccleston (180-6 ) by four wickets
Division One: Kirkham & Wesham (181, M Brooks 60, A Harrison 38 ) lost to Torrisholme (185-7, D Woods 92no) by three wickets, White Coppice (143) lost to Norcross ( 303-5) by 160 runs, Whittingham & Goosnargh (194, I Desai 61, S Akter 4-24, P Wood 4-38) beat Wrea Green (166, S Child 50, H Patel 3-45) by 28 runs
Division Two: South Shore (116, R Adderley 33, T Markham 4-18) lost to Whittle & Clayton-le-Woods (145-9, M Grey 48, Ashford 3-26)) by 26 runs