County Championship (at New Road): Worcestershire (12 pts) drew with Surrey (9pts).
Worcestershire's hopes of a first County Championship First Division win of the season were frustrated by a stubborn last-wicket stand on the final day of their game against Surrey.
Mark Butcher and Matt Nicholson survived the last 21.4 overs of the match to thwart the hosts and leave them 28 points adrift from safety at the foot of the table.
Butcher, batting with a runner after sustaining an injury to his Achilles tendon, resisted for over three hours, while last man Nicholson faced 67 deliveries.
It was a cruel ending for Worcestershire. They had dominated the game from the the offset and, at lunch, looked to have victory in the bag.
At that time Surrey were five down, including Mark Ramprakash and Gareth Batty was causing all right-handers huge problems with turn out of the foot-holes.
Surrey's last pair worked out a method to nullify that line of attack, however. Eschewing run-taking opportunities, the left-handed Butcher dealt with Batty, padding away anything near the rough outside his leg stump, while Nicolson, a tail-ender with two first-class centuries to his name, kept out the seamers at the other end.
All Worcestershire's bowlers performed admirably. Doug Bollinger, wicketless in the match, is looking fitter by the day and will enjoy more helpful conditions, while Nadeem Malik also impressed with his discipline.
There was certainly no lack of effort. Batty delivered all but nine overs from the Diglis End on the final day, meaning he had bowled 84.2 overs in the game, while Kabir Ali looked exhausted by the end after giving his all for the breakthrough. But the pitch remained slow and flat and there was precious little help for any of them.
Perhaps if Matt Mason had been fit, things would have been different but concerns are growing over the seamer's long-term future and his return to action is far from imminent.
His shoulder injury is not responding to treatment and the club are now seeking another medical opinion. A further operation is one possibility. "It's become more serious than we originally thought," chief executive Mark Newton said.
"He tried [to bowl] this morning and it's not getting any better. He's taking a second opinion from the surgeon who looked after Shane Warne and Brett Lee."
Perhaps, too, if those ten overs had not been lost to bad light on the second day, Worcestershire may have had the time to force the win.
But all their efforts were in vain and much hard work lies ahead if relegation is to be averted.
The result was particularly tough on Batty. The off-spinner claimed his third five-wicket haul at New Road and his 11th in all, finishing with match figures of eight for 184.
"It does feel a bit like losing," Batty agreed afterwards. "But the conditions were nearly perfect for batting, so to get 19 wickets on that wicket was a great effort. We won't play on a slower, lower wicket in the country.
"Credit to Surrey. They worked out a method. We played all the cricket, but they had the last hour. It's very hard to get wins in Division One but if we play like that, we'll be close.
"We can take a huge amount from this game. Every man in our side from one to 11 has played their socks off. Some are getting some stick, but there's not a bloke in that dressing room that I don't back."
Certainly, this was a far better performance from Worcestershire. They capitalised on winning the toss, batted brilliantly and bowled well as a unit.
Though their start to the season has made survival in the top division desperately tough, they showed in this game that there are legitimate grounds for hope. It is worth noting, however, that their rivals in this game, the other promoted team, have yet to win a game this season. Tougher tests await.
The final day started so well for the hosts. Worcestershire took four wickets in 17 overs just before lunch and looked to have the upper hand. The nightwatchman, Neil Saker, turned Batty to short leg before Scott Newman was brilliantly held by wicketkeeper Steven Davies, diving to his right, after the batsman edged his lavish drive.
Ali Brown, who was struggling to deal with the turn from the foot-holes outside his off stump, was well caught at silly-point and Ramprakash, the vital man, fell to a very sharp catch at slip after edging his attempted square drive.
Ramprakash was not particularly flattering about the delivery from Malik that dismissed him in the first innings, allegedly describing it as 'the worst ball ever'.
The ball that dismissed him second time around, very wide and full, was little better but, by claiming his wicket in either innings, Malik became the first bowler to dismiss Ramprakash twice in a game since Martin Saggers did so in 2003.
They were, however, among the few poor balls Malik bowled in a much-improved performance and, on the final day, he was arguably the pick of the seamers.
Surrey found much greater resolve after lunch. Rikki Clarke, who was showing welcome maturity and restraint, resisted for not far short of three hours, while Azhar Mahmood also flourished through playing his normal, positive cricket.
Clarke was finally trapped by one that turned and kept impossibly low, while Azhar shuffled in front on his stumps and played across a straight one.
With Chris Schofield also falling leg before wicket to one that looked as if it pitched outside the leg stump, then Ian Salisbury edging a brute of a ball that leapt on him, victory appeared a formality.
Yet Butcher and Nicholson thwarted all Worcestershire's efforts. Four days of dominance were worth only three points more to the hosts than the visitors.
With ten games remaining, survival in the top flight is certainly still achievable and this game did represent a large step in the right direction.