Northants heading for division two as they are denied by title-chasing Surrey
The loss leaves John Sadler’s side 25 points adrift of third-from-bottom Kent, and 21 points shy of second-from-bottom Middlesex, whose match with Warwickshire has yet to finish.
Title favourites Surrey negotiated the best part of the final day to draw with the County at the Oval, and they will take a slender advantage into the final week of the LV= Insurance County Championship season.
Northants needed to win and gambled to enforce the follow-on rather than set the leaders a target on the final day, and it did not work out.
They are still without a win at The Kia Oval since 1994.
Surrey were asked to follow on 172 runs behind after being bowled out for 185 in reply to Northants’ 357.
But openers Dom Sibley and Rory Burns batted diligently in the hour before lunch against some testing new-ball bowling from Northants’ seamers and throughout the final two sessions in some of the best batting conditions of a rain-affected four days.
When the players came off at 4.20pm for bad light and the players shook hands with 19 overs remaining, Surrey had reached 142 without loss, with Burns unbeaten on 71 and Sibley 67.
Surrey took eight points to take them to 213.
If Essex beat Hampshire at Chelmsford that would move them up to 209, while a draw would leave Essex on 198.
In the final round of games starting next Tuesday Surrey travel to Hampshire while Essex are at Northampton and an exciting finale to the season is guaranteed with the reigning champions’ fate at least in their own hands.
Surrey’s first innings, which resumed on 158 for six, lasted for only another 52 minutes and 11.2 overs on the final morning as their remaining four wickets fell for just 27 runs.
Jamie Overton, who had struck a counter-attacking half-century on the third afternoon, added a single before edging Jack White to first slip on 51 and, in White’s next over, Dan Worrall was bowled for a duck.
Tom Lawes made seven before giving Karun Nair his second catch of the morning at first slip, this time off Sanderson, and Ben Foakes – on 33 overnight – was now left with last man Kemar Roach for company, and with another 34 runs required to save the follow on.
Foakes chipped away for a while but, on 42, went across his stumps in a bid to whip Taylor’s fast-medium away to mid-wicket and was leg-before.
Taylor finished with first innings figures of two for 39 and there were also two wickets for both Sanderson and Procter, in support of the impressive White’s four for 45.
Following on, Sibley survived two strong lbw appeals in successive overs from Ben Sanderson on 12 and Tom Taylor on 13, the first pitching marginally outside the line and the second possibly sliding down the leg side.
But after lunch it got easier with Burns passing 50 for the fourth time this season while Sibley lodged his fifth half-century of the summer with few alarms.
By the end Northants had used nine different bowlers, their hopes of victory and avoiding a return to Division Two all but certain.