Lightcliffe came closer than probably they ever imaged to winning the Bradford League title for the first time in their history on Saturday.
The Wakefield Road side, last year’s Division Two champions, went into the final day in third place behind Woodlands and Cleckheaton and with seemingly just a wafer-thin chance of glory.
Jonathan Wilson’s side did all they could by picking up the maximum 20 points at home to Undercliffe, a second wicket stand of 144 between Chris Taylor (87) and Alex Stead (86) helping them to 256 for three before their visitors were bowled out for 137 with spinner Josh Wheatley taking six for 44.
When Cleckheaton lost at Pudsey Congs and Bradford & Bingley reached 149 for six in reply to faltering leaders Woodlands’ 153 all out, Lightcliffe were ready to party.
Incredibly, however, Woodlands grabbed the last four wickets without a run being scored to clinch their six title in eight years.
Left-armer Chris Brice dismissed Matthew Duce for 58 and then fellow spinner Grant Soames took the last three wickets to leave Lightcliffe as runners-up.
Brighouse were unable to finish another disappointing Division Two season on a high, losing by seven wickets at Bankfoot after totalling 117. Zahir Husain (32) and number nine Kamran Khan (28) were their best batsmen.
Northowram Fields were involved in their third close match in a row in the Central Yorkshire League and were unable to seal Premier Division safety at Carlton.
The hosts, with their last pair at the wicket, scored boundaries off the fourth and fifth balls of the final over to overhaul the Rams’ 208 for five, which included 71 from Mark Gilliver.
Number nine Chris Smith was the home hero with 40 not out.
Northowram are fourth from bottom before next Saturday’s re-arranged programme, in which they are at home to New Farnley.
Tom Marsden’s side are level on points with Altofts and four ahead of Batley and Birstall with only one team likely to go down because Moorlands, who are joining the Huddersfield League, are certain to finish in the top two in Division One.
In their last match of the season, Illingworth gave promoted Tong Park Esholt a fright before succumbing to a 54-run defeat in a game with little at stake.
It means they have finished fourth in Division Three of the Aire/Wharfe League, one place higher than in 2011.
Tong Park Esholt ultimately powered to 214 in their 50 overs, largely thanks to a hundred from overseas man Weerapule, although at 61 for two at the halfway stage a smaller target seemed in prospect.
Despite losing Tasmanian Stevenson in the first over, Illingworth kept up the pressure and at 142 for four with 18 overs to go looked capable of pulling off a surprise win.
Calum Cook had his best knock of the season, cracking 74 at a run a ball with eight fours and three sixes, and skipper Luke Brooksby looked dangerous with a swift 28, However, Illingworth lost their last six wickets for just 15 runs. Illingworth can take much satisfaction from such a high league finish when nearly half of their home games were washed out.