EXMOUTH can take a massive step towards winning their first Premier Division title since 1999 if they beat visiting Bovey Tracey this Saturday.
The game pits the teams currently first and second in the table against each other, with the East Devon outfit 12 points better off.
If Exmouth win the likely gap between the teams will be around 25 points, which will take some wiping out in the last two games of the season.
Exmouth go into the game fresh from winning a rain-affected match at Plymouth by seven runs, although they were by no means convincing.
Exmouth recovered from 17 for five to make 187 for eight in the full quota of 50 overs.
Trevor Anning made 30 – his stand of 62 with Andy Buzza (24) started the fightback – then Lawrence Greenway (50) and Mark Orchard (36no) put on 90 before Greenway fell to the last ball of the innings.
The city side ran into trouble either side of the halfway stage, when they stumbled from 51 for three to 85 for seven.
A revised target of 17 to win from the last two overs and 12 off the final one proved too tall an order.
Exmouth skipper Richard Baggs agreed his side were not at their best, but the way they dealt with adversity was encouraging.
"I was just delighted with the win," said Baggs. "After being 17 for five to get 187 was a fantastic effort from the lads.
"I was really pleased for Lawrence Greenway and the great chip-ins from Buzza, Trev Anning and Scrumpy Orchard showed real strength."
Bovey Tracey could not have done much more to stay close behind Exmouth as they saw off Budleigh Salterton by seven wickets.
Eliot Rice and Bob Dawson both made half centuries as Budleigh reached 248 for nine in their 50 overs.
Dawson and James Burke (42) put on 101 for the first wicket and the total was topped up further by Jack Dart (24) and Rice notching 65 for the fourth. Peter Bradley had four for 46 and there were two wickets each for Neil Hancock and Ryan Bougourd.
Bovey only had two balls at last pair Matt Plowman and Joel Murphy, but could not shift either of them and dropped a bowling bonus point.
Sam Wyatt-Haines slammed the Budleigh bowling for 90 off 98 balls as the home set went off in hot pursuit.
Wyatt-Haines and Bradley (71) made a 183-run dent in the target and it was a straightforward job for Damian Bourke (23) and Matt Golding (34) to whittle away the rest.
Budleigh are 35 points adrift of safety at the bottom and unless they beat Torquay this Saturday will be playing A Division cricket again next season for the first time since 2003.
Sidmouth continue their pursuit of the top two this Saturday when they entertain Plymouth in part one of a double-header against the same opposition.
On Sunday the two teams meet again at Bovey Tracey in the delayed Devon Cup semi-final.
By then third-placed Sidmouth will know if there remains a chance of retaining their Premier Division crown.
Sidmouth trail Bovey in second by nine points after their workmanlike five-wicket win over Exeter last time out.
Blake Reed top scored with 83 for the city side, putting on 102 for the second wicket with Ben Green in Exeter's total of 249 for five. Rob Holman made a patient 47 not out.
The pick of the bowlers with two for 21 was Scott Barlow. Sid skipper Will Murray kept it tight with 10 overs for 31 runs.
Sidmouth got over the line with more than five overs to spare thanks largely to an unbeaten 61 from Devon skipper Josh Bess.
After Liam Lewis went for 38, Bess put on 63 with veteran Anthony Griffiths (52) and 89 with Peter Randerson (59) to end it as a contest. Green (2-43) was the only Exeter bowler to take more than one wicket.
"It was a very pleasing win." said Murray. "On a flat wicket, and after a fast start from Exeter, we were pleased to contain them to under 250.
"We then played a perfectly timed chase and got the runs with six overs to spare."
Bradninch have a crunch game against Torquay this Saturday which is likely to determine their fate this season.
Win it and the Kensham Park outfit have a fighting chance of getting out of the relegation zone – lose and it would be hard to see how Bradninch could close the gap between them and safety.
Bradninch ran into title outsiders North Devon last Saturday and came off second best by 38 runs.
North Devon's Craig Overton butchered the Bradninch attack for 172 off 135 balls after being dropped several times.
Jackson Thompson took two for 44 as North Devon made 318 for eight.
Bradninch had a go at chasing down the total if only for the batting bonus points.
North Devon feared another assault from Thompson – who scored a Premier Division double hundred earlier in the season – and were glad to see him go for 17 off the first 18 on the board.
James Street (44) and Tim Piper (23) made a 66-run dent in the deficit, then Dan Hardy got on with it.
Hardy's 88 off 75 balls with 10 fours and a couple of sixes had North Devon rattled for a while.
Matt Jarrett and Greg Maher (32) gave Hardy support, but eight overs out with 101 needed to win he was prised out. Maher and Matt Vercoe-Curtis (20) gave it their best shot, but fell to 280 for nine.