Northamptonshire suffered their first defeat in this season’s LV= County Championship Division Two as promotion rivals Lancashire pulled off a remarkable eight-wicket victory inside two days at Old Trafford.
Having been bowled out for 62 on the opening day after being put in to bat, league leaders Northants were dismissed for 169 in their second innings leaving second-placed Lancashire needing just 73 for victory.
And after the early loss of Luke Procter, they knocked the runs off in 21 overs after claiming the extra half hour this evening, with Ashwell Prince (38) and Luis Reece (22 not out) guiding them home.
Having been reduced to 80 for seven in their second innings, Andrew Hall and David Murphy both made half-centuries in an 89-run partnership to give the County at least a chance of maintaining their unbeaten record.
However, once Procter – who took four for 39 – broke the stand when Hall went for 55, it began an eight-ball spell which saw the visitors lose their last three wickets without scoring a run.
After an unbeaten 35 from Tom Smith had helped Lancashire improve their overnight 121 for eight to 159 - a first innings lead of 97 - Northants were soon in trouble in their second innings with Kyle Coetzer, David Sales and James Middlebrook all back in the dressing room as the visitors reached 26 for three at lunch.
Robert Keogh did not last long after the interval as he played a Smith delivery on to his stumps and seven overs later Alex Wakely cut Procter to Prince at point for 17.
Procter struck again when Steven Crook chipped him to Reece at mid-wicket for four and Northants were left reeling on 80 for seven when David Willey tamely lobbed a Smith delivery straight to Glen Chapple at mid on for five.
But Hall and Murphy made light of what had gone on before them with a ninth-wicket stand which ended any hopes Lancashire had of what would have been a remarkable innings victory.
After the duo both reached their half-centuries, Procter finally made the breakthrough for Lancashire when former South African Test all-rounder Hall edged him to Smith at first slip.
Five balls later Graeme White played on to register his second duck of the game and hand Procter his fourth wicket.
Then left-arm spinner Simon Kerrigan trapped Murphy lbw for 55 to leave Lancashire needing just 73 to win.
Earlier, Mohammad Azharullah claimed four for 42 as he took the final two wickets of Lancashire’s first innings.
He bowled Stephen Parry in the fourth over of the morning and, after Smith and Kerrigan had put on 30 for the final wicket, sent the latter’s stumps flying.
Lancashire have no worries about the state of the pitch, which had been the subject of criticism from Northants chief executive David Smith, after pitch liaison officer Jack Birkenshaw gave it the all clear.