Paul Horton chose the ideal time to record his highest LV County Championship score for more than 13 months to help Lancashire to a crucial three-day victory over bottom side Worcestershire at Old Trafford.
The 26-year-old opener recorded a patient 170-ball 77 with 10 fours to help the Red Rose county chase down 264 for the loss of just three wickets.
The 17-point win keeps Lancashire on the fringes of the Division One title race but defeat would have plunged them into a relegation fight. Worcestershire have still not won a game all season.
Horton was helped along by Mark Chilton’s 45 off 142 balls and the pair shared 109 for the second wicket after the early loss of Mal Loye.
VVS Laxman later hit an unbeaten 64 off 93 balls and Steven Croft 40 not out off 81 in an unbroken stand of 91 to guide the hosts home.
Loye was trapped lbw by Matt Mason in the fourth over of the day, the 17th of the chase, for 17 to leave the score at 42 for one. Lancashire had added just two to their overnight score.
But Horton and Chilton negated the threat posed by Mason, who had eight wickets in the match to his name, and picked off the runs from new ball partner Ashley Noffke in particular. Lancashire lunched at 99 for one and needed another 165 to win in five sessions.
Horton reached his third Championship fifty of the season with a back foot punched boundary, the milestone coming up off 121 balls with six boundaries.
The pitch seemed to have slowed up during the day and the swing present during the first two days died down.
The pair recorded their hundred partnership in the 56th over and Worcester captain Vikram Solanki was running out of options.
But he was at least given a ray of light by off-spinner Gareth Batty in the next over when he removed Horton caught by Daryl Mitchell at first slip. It left Lancashire at 151 for two.
And the England one-day man gave the Pears further hope five overs later when Chilton lunged forward and looped a catch to Ben Smith at short-leg.
Rain later forced the umpires to call an early tea with Lancashire at 184 for three and needing 80 more for the win.
Laxman had reached 23 at this stage and later confirmed his first four-day fifty of his second spell with the county off 72 balls with five fours. The win was Lancashire’s third of the campaign and their first in five matches since winning at New Road in early May.
They remain fourth in the table ahead of Wednesday’s trip to face Warwickshire at Edgbaston.
Worcester have now lost six of their eight matches and begin their NatWest Pro40 Division One campaign at home to Yorkshire on Wednesday.
n Greg Smith and Chris Rogers made Gloucestershire pay a heavy price for dropped slip catches as Derbyshire were dismissed for 326 in day one of the top-of-the-table LV County Championship Division Two match at Cheltenham.
South African Smith made a career-best 126, having been reprieved by Craig Spearman on two, and Australian opener Rogers made 81, having been dropped by Hamish Marshall on four.
Smith led a revival after Derbyshire had collapsed to 119 for five shortly after lunch and received good lower-order support from James Pipe (22), Graham Wagg (31) and Tim Groenewald (26).
Jon Lewis finished as Gloucestershire’s most successful bowler with three for 40, while James Franklin took the last three wickets to end with three for 59 and Steve Kirby took two for 50 before leaving the field late in the day with a leg injury.
Gloucestershire had five overs to bat before stumps and Spearman and Kadeer Ali safely negotiated them to take the total to 10 without loss.