Ajmal Shahzad and Kyle Hogg got Lancashire over the line in a thrilling finish against Durham at the Riverside today as the visitors clinched their Championship first win of 2012.
Chasing 200 to win in bowler-friendly conditions, rain through the morning and early afternoon meant that Lancashire, having reached 56-1 from 16 overs last night, would require another 144 from only 44 overs when play finally started at 2.55pm.
They were forced to navigate some stunning bowling from England hopeful Graham Onions, who finished with 6-52 and career best match figures of 11-95.
But, after being reduced to 168-8 with 34 balls of the contest left, Shahzad and Hogg got them over the line with some daring strokeplay against Onions, Jamie Harrison and Steve Harmison.
While Hogg finished 12 not out off 14 balls, Shahzad secured the 16 points by two wickets and with four balls to spare when he hit Harmison to long-on's left to finish 19 not out off 21.
Bottom side Durham, meanwhile, were docked four points for a slow overrate, finishing the match with minus one point compared to Lancashire's 19. The Red Rose county are now fifth in Division One.
Ashwell Prince also played a key role in the victory with a second innings 51, batting against Onions at his most potent to secure his sixth score of 50 or more in the Championship this season.
And he was understandably delighted with the outcome: "It was an amazing win," he said. "A lot has gone against us this season. It's been tough, but we've kept fighting. We have been playing better, but to only come away from here with a draw would have been really disappointing.
"Today we really felt we had a good chance with a whole day to bat and nine wickets still in hand. But, as you'd have it, it rained for most of the morning.
"With a lot of the overs being taken off, it gave them a chance because we had to take some risks to get the runs. Graham Onions bowled magnificently well. It would have been a tough trip back to Manchester tonight had we not got over the line, but it's going to be much better now."
Lancashire survived an early scare when Karl Brown was dropped on 30 by Paul Collingwood at second slip, low down to his left off Onions.
Stephen Moore was the first wicket to fall in the fifth over of the day when he was bowled by Onions for with one that seemed to keep a touch low, leaving the score at 63-2 in the 21st over.
Moore had already cut Harrison for four to gain the first runs of the morning and Brown drove the same bowler for two fours in the 22nd over, which went for 14 to take the score to 77-2.
Unfortunately for Brown though, he did not last too much longer because he was trapped lbw by Onions for 42 with one that kept low as Lancashire were reduced to 80-3 in the 25th over, still needing another 120.
Three more runs were added before tea, which left them needing 117 more from 33 overs with Steven Croft, struck on the hand by Onions in the opening stages of his innings, and Prince at the crease.
Onions and Harmison continued after tea, bowling tightly to increase the pressure on the visiting batsmen. And it was no surprise that it was Onions who got the breakthrough when he forced Croft to edge to Scott Borthwick at third slip with the score on 98.
Onions bowled his first 19 overs unchanged, not accounting for the natural breaks in play, before being replaced by Ben Stokes at the start of the 39th over with Lancashire at 108-4 and still needing 92 to win in 22 overs. Onions' first spell today read 11-4-12-3.
Harmison's next over went for 13, including a top-edged pull for six from Prince, to ease some of the pressure.
Prince and Procter batted fluently during their fifth-wicket alliance of 58, but Procter edged behind to Phil Mustard as he dabbled at a Harrison delivery outside off stump to leave Lancs at 156-5 in the 50th.
Prince then fell shortly afterwards, caught at first slip by Gordon Muchall as he tried to flay Harrison through the off-side. And when Gareth Cross was trapped lbw by Onions, Lancashire were 161-7, still needing 39 with seven and a half overs left.
Glen Chapple then edged Onions behind to Mustard in the 55th over with the score on 168 and Lancashire still needing 32.
Shahzad and Hogg then chipped away at the target with not a thought for the draw, with the former driving Harmison over mid-off's head for four as eleven runs came off the 58th over of 60 to take the target to 13 off two and then eight off the last.
Prince added: "If you look Ajmal's character, he's a likeable guy. He's a fighter out there on the field, and he always gives 100 percent. Unfortunately for him he hasn't been able to do as well with the bat, but he came to the party today when we really needed him."
Lancashire, who face Worcestershire in the Clydesdale Bank 40 at Old Trafford on Tuesday, play Nottinghamshire in their next Championship match at Trent Bridge on Wednesday.
Reports: Day 1 I Day 2 I Day 3
Photo of Ajmal Shahzad (c) Simon Pendrigh
Article (c) Lancashire CCC Ltd