STANFORD le Hope went joint top of the table after beating previous leaders Harlow Town.
Lee Knight’s team share top spot with Old Southendian & Southchurch, who notched up their sixth consecutive win.
It sets up a thrilling clash this weekend as the leaders meet at Stanford in a match which could have a major say in who wins promotion.
Both sides are feeling confident after Stanford beat Harlow Town by two wickets and the Old Boys defeated Oakfield Parkonians by 100 runs.
Harlow elected to bat against Stanford and were bowled out for 189 in 49.3 overs.
Ramya Upadhyay (27) fared best early on but late stands from Shaun Alderson (40) and wicketkeeper Scott Alderson (33) boosted Harlow’s innings against an attack led by Ross Poulton (2-13), Greg Barr (2-28) and Dylan Eginton (2-37).
Michael Gray (52) anchored the reply, with Sachin Sewgobind (31), Tom Willats (26) and captain Lee Knight (21) helping Stanford to 190-8 in 41 overs. Mohammad Ali took 4-34 and Daniel Farmer 3-33.
“It was a really good win,” said Knight. “We actually had them in trouble at 20-3 and 40-4 but a couple of their lower middle order chipped in and that built the innings up.
“The outfield was very quick so if a batsman found a gap it was was always going to be difficult.
“We knew if we could see off the new ball and get ourselves in then we were in with a good chance, but it was a lot closer than we would have liked.
“We lost a couple of wickets early on but a couple of the lads put on a partnership which got us to 100-3. It was a good team performance with the bat.”
Old Southendian’s win over Parkonians kept their promotion ambitions on track but the result was closer than skipper Aaron Lucas would have liked.
Rob Johnston (74) continued his fine batting form, while Michael Hill (34), Max Craddock (29), Lucas (28) and Matt Wilson (26no) made telling contributions in the Old Boys total of 257-5 from their 50 overs.
Adam Hunt (3-42), Sam Hodgson (2-6) and Hill (2-29) then led the attack as 10-man Parkonians were bowled out for 157-9 in reply. Jobran Azam (62) offered most resistance.
“It sounds like quite a large win but at the halfway point they were in quite a nice position to win the game,” said Lucas.
“We were looking down the barrell at one stage but it was a good team performance. Rob anchored the innings as he has been doing all season and everyone batted around him.
“We bowled pretty well in patches. We got a wicket first ball which was quite useful. Then their number three (Azam) came in and was throwing his hands in and it was coming off for him.
“As soon as we got him out the game turned in our favour.”
Basildon & Pitsea climbed up to fifth as they stemmed a four-match losing spell with a 65-run derby win over Benfleet at Mopsies Park.
Basildon captain Michael Gray (32) did well at the top of the order but three wickets fell cheaply before Danny Gray (50), Dean Bedford (39), Jon Bonnett (36) Jamie White (27) and Phillip Tooke (25) boosted the innings.
Mark Acraman (4-65) and Rob Zammit (2-58) did the most damage as Basildon were bowled out for 264 in 49.5 overs.
Zammit (26) and Chris Webb (20) made early inroads but Andy Prophet (56) and Gareth Steed (31) provided the bulk of the resistance before Benfleet were bowled out for 199 in 45.1 overs, with Lloyd Lambert (3-36) and Luke Daw (3-54) getting among the wickets.
“It seems liked we have not won for months and had got into the habit of losing games,” said Basildon captain Michael Gray.
“It’s a little bit like England really, where you get stuck on a losing streak and manage to lose games you should win.
“It was really important to get the win because we have a blank weekend next week, so we needed to get the points.”
Benfleet captain James Wilkins said: “They got about 40 more than they should have done.
“They had a guy who was pumping it and got a few lucky boundaries. If we had got him out it would have been getable. It was one of those games.
“We were a bowler light because John Bull dropped out on Friday night and we were looking for overs really.
“It was not a 260 deck and I would have thought 220 would have been par.”