OLD Southendian & Southchurch achieved their pre-match plan of getting 25 points but got an unexpected bonus when Harlow Town were held to a draw by Woodford Green.
With promotion rivals Stanford le Hope having no game and Harlow picking up just 11 points, the Old Boys went top of the table by five points.
Southendian posted 264-4 and then bowled out bottom-of-the table for 148 to win by 108 runs.
“The game plan was to bat first and try to get the 25 points, rather than the 20, to put as much pressure on the two team above us and it worked quite nicely,” said Old Boys’ captain Aaron Lucas.
“Sometimes if you do not go all out to win then the other team will play out for a draw. It was a good team effort.
“We were also delighted to see Harlow Town draw, which was fantastic. We have a gap week but going into the last game, when we play Harlow, it puts the pressure on them.”
Southendian lost openers Mark Hope (22) and James Lock (7) early on but took control through Australian batsman Michael Hill (53) and second XI captain Gary Threadgold (61), playing in place of unavailable opener Rob Johnstone.
Max Craddock earned praise from his skipper for his unbeaten 70, while Lucas scored 25 not out before declaring. Rakesh Bagga (2-58) led the Epping attack.
Young bowler Matthew Austin came in on the first change and took 4-40 to earn plaudits from Lucas, while Adam Hunt took 3- 13, Adam Rendell 2-60 and Hill (1- 29), with Simon Lycett (39) leading the Epping reply.
Basildon & Pitsea’s miserable run of form continued with a narrow one-wicket defeat at home to Old Brentwoods.
Michael Gray’s team were bowled out for 241 but couldn’t get the last wicket they needed as Brentwoods got 243-9 in reply.
And it left Gray lamenting: “I think we have just forgotten how to win.
“In the last four or five games we have had teams eight wickets down and just haven’t been able to get the last couple of wickets.
“I think we could lose any game at the moment.
“But it was a good game against Old Brentwoods and it all came down to the last couple of overs. If we had got a win it would have been a morale booster.”
The match marked young bowler Tom Hardy’s first team debut but it was Lloyd Lambert who anchored Basildon’s innings with 80 runs before he was bowled out.
Tom Poole (25) and Phillip Tooke (23) also made valuable contributions against an attack led by Ubaid Kiani (4-58).
Luke Daw took 3-36, Lambert 3- 69 and Tooke 2-31 but Muhammad Baber (42) and Haris Soomro (36) saw Brentwoods to victory.
Three lbw decisions put the skids on Benfleet as they crashed to a 131-run defeat at Oakfield Parkonians.
Benfleet bowled their hosts out for 233 but then collapsed to 102 all out after making a promising start to their reply.
“It was a heavy defeat but we were going well at 52-1 and it looked like we were on course,” said captain James Wilkins.
“But we had three howler lbw decisions and they really took the wind out of our sails.
“It was very unfortunate and took the momentum out of our reply.
“However, it’s the sort of luck you get when you are down the bottom of the table.”
The highlight for Benfleet was the bowling of Paul Frensham (6- 79) and Mark Acraman (3-46) as they mopped up the Parkonians tail cheaply.
But Paran Kalley (65), Taaha Naqvi (46) and Jibran Azam (41) had earlier proved the cornerstones of the hosts’ innings.
Aaron Toner went for a single but Gareth Steed (25) became the first lbw victim while building a useful partnership with Rob Zammit (20).
Kieran Record was out for a duck before Frensham (18), Sam Bibby (14) and Gavin Blowed (10) built the reply.
But Wilkins and Matthew Mason both went lbw for a duck and Charlie Huntley (4no) ran out for partners as the innings ended after 31.2 overs.
To make matters worse for ninth-placed Benfleet, they were penalised five points because they were unable to field a third XI due to player unavailability.