Surrey will go into the final week of the LV= Insurance County Championship title race in pole position after Essex fell to a three-wicket defeat against a Hampshire side inspired by Liam Dawson.
Continuing an outstanding season, Dawson made 119, contributing to a fifth-wicket stand of 184 alongside James Vince as they took the game away from second-placed Essex at Chelmsford.
Dawson had come to the crease with Hampshire, set 267 for victory, having been reduced to 32-4, but went on to make his third century of the season while Vince made 89.
It means Essex will go into their final fixture 20 points behind reigning champions Surrey, who held on to draw against winless Northamptonshire at the Kia Oval.
With relegation looking inevitable, Northamptonshire gambled against the leaders as they enforced the follow-on with a first-innings lead of 172, but they could not make it pay.
Surrey openers Dom Sibley and Rory Burns batted diligently in the hour before lunch against some testing new-ball bowling from the visiting seamers and throughout the final two sessions in some of the best batting conditions of a
rain-affected four days.
By the time bad light brought about an early close, they had reached 142-0, with Burns on 71 and Sibley 67.
Relegation-battling Kent salvaged a draw from their rain-hit match against Somerset after being made to follow-on at Taunton.
The visitors were bowled out for 235 in their first innings, 169 shy of Somerset’s total, after being reduced to 31-4 before Joe Denly pitched in with 73.
Somerset put them back in with the hope of some quick wickets with a possible 41 overs remaining, but Kent made it to 44-2 before the players shook hands early.
The draw was enough to put Kent one point above Middlesex, who dropped into the bottom two after an eight-wicket defeat to Warwickshire.
Opener Sam Robson carried his bat for an unbeaten century but it was not enough for the hosts, who were bowled out for 251 in their second innings.
Following afternoon rain, Warwickshire had only 10 overs in which to chase 58, but Rob Yates and Ed Barnard made it across the line with nine balls to spare.
There was an early end to play at Old Trafford where rain forced a draw between Lancashire and Nottinghamshire.
There were only 15 overs played on the final day, with Lancashire reaching 272-7 in their first innings. But with Nottinghamshire yet to bat there was never any prospect of a result.
Meanwhile, Worcestershire are within touching distance of following Durham into Division One next season despite being frustrated by the newly-crowned champions on the final day at New Road.
Durham captain Scott Borthwick scored a chanceless century and then Ollie Robinson illuminated the afternoon session with some glorious stroke-play as the visitors closed on 371-4 in their first innings in reply to Worcestershire’s 313.
The hosts were restricted to adding one bowling point as the game petered out into a draw to bring their run of three successive victories to an end.
They spilled a series of chances but the wash-out of nearest challengers Leicestershire‘s game with Yorkshire at the Uptonsteel County Ground leaves them strong favourites to be promoted.
Worcestershire are 22 points ahead of the Foxes heading into next week’s final fixture against Yorkshire at Headingley, while Leicestershire take on Durham at the Emirates Riverside.