The brave season-long battle to retain top-flight status was finally lost by Hoghton on Saturday.
After being anchored in the bottom two earlier in the season, Phil Hurst’s side put together a courageous revival in the latter part of the campaign and briefly passed relegation rivals Fylde.
But that surge of form has fizzled out in recent weeks, and they went into Saturday’s home clash against Fulwood & Broughton knowing only victory and a defeat for Fylde would mean their survival hopes would still be alive going into next week’s final game.
Yet sadly, it was not to be, as the visitors eased to a comfortable win which ensured Fylde’s result was academic anyway.
In truth, Hoghton were up against it from the start as visiting skipper Richard Turner and fellow opener Mark Smith launched into a century opening partnership which put their side firmly in the driving seat.
When the partnership was finally broken, a trio of quick wickets by the ever reliable Will Monks briefly gave the home side hope that they could keep Fulwood & Broughton in check.
However, a rapid 49 by Matt Smith put paid to those hopes and F & B ended on a towering 244-7.
That was always going to be a tall order, and it proved far beyond Hoghton’s scope as they folded to just 62 all out, Smith turning destroyer with the ball as he claimed seven victims.
n Withnell Fold look likely to be one of the sides replacing the Smithy Brow side in the top flight, but they will haves to wait until next week for confirmation after they slipped up at struggling
In a rain-affected game, Fold could only manage
97-4 despite a defiant 30 from Michael Atkinson, Jonathan Driver taking 4-46.
In reply, Croston eased home with six wickets and more than six overs to spare, Simon Marsh’s unbeaten 43 helping them to a victory which gives a big boost to their survival hopes.
White Coppice look to have lost their chance to overhaul Fold, but at last returned to winning ways with a fine five wicket home win over table-toppers Vernon Carus 2nds.
It was a day when Dixons dominated, the visitors’ Kevin Dixon hitting 55 in his side’s 152 for 8 while Coppice namesake Wayne took four wickets, as did Phil Jackson.
In reply, Antony Moore set the home side on the way with 63 before a third Dixon, Wayne’s brother Kyle, hit an unbeaten 43 to see his side home to a five-wicket win.
n At the other end of the table, Mawdesley all but won their battle for Division One survival after a tremendous victory at Fulwood & Broughton
The home side were restricted to 127-9, skipper Darren Lemarinel and Martin Williams claiming four wickets each in an innings restricted to 36 overs by a rain intervention.
Mawdesley then cruised to the victory target as Lemarinel again led from the front with an unbeaten 63.
n Since they clinched the Palace Shield Division Two title a fortnight ago, Eccleston appear to have taken their foot off the gas.
Last week, they suffered a home reverse against Norcross, and this Saturday they slumped to a 73 run reverse in the derby clash at Whittle and Clayton-le-Woods.
Eccleston skipper Stuart White opened the bowling then gave no less than eight colleagues a spell.
But none of them could stop the home side racking up an imposing 208-3, Chris McMahon hitting a superb 115 and Sabbir Patel 68.
The champions’ reply never really got going, with White himself top scoring on 29 as they could only muster a disappointing 135-8.
n Charnock Richard meanwhile stay firmly in mid-table after a drubbing at promotion chasing Norcross.
In a game restricted to 39 overs a side, the visitors could only struggle to 99-8 despite skipper David Fortune’s 36.
Norcross openers Sean Bovington and Des Harris took just 17.1 overs to knock off the runs and complete a 10-wicket win.