HOPES of a third successive Middleton Cup quarter-final were halted for Oxfordshire following a 115-115 draw against Hampshire at Oxford City & County.
Needing a significant win to set up a showdown in their final South Group Section B fixture against Kent, they fell short despite a nail-biting finish.
Victories on only two rinks meant the hosts came away with nine points compared to leaders Hampshire’s 13.
Oxfordshire were always behind, but never out of contention.
Their spirit was summed up by Mark Charlett who, along with teammates Jason King, Gary May and Sam Watts, fought back to win seven successive ends and come out on top 21-14.
The other win came from Mark Sykes’ four.
Along with AJ Docherty, George Schwab and Richard Redford, they led from the start to also win by seven shots.
Although Baden Sparkes rink lost 19-14, two other matches went right to the wire.
Calvin Carpenter’s team were edged out 19-17, while Ian Snowdon’s men were even closer to success as they went down 23-22.
The narrow defeats meant, in a repeat of last year’s fixture with Hants, the overall result rested on the final end of Paul Sharman’s rink.
Having trailed by 17 shots at one stage, he and Lee Young, Shane Cooper and Barry Lambourne dug in against a run of poor fortune to take five out of six ends and close to nine after the penultimate end.
A four-shot win would have given the hosts a team victory, and Sharman needed to remove a Hants bowl for a potential count of five.
He found the target but did not make a decisive contact and after a tense wait while umpire Les Upham took measurements, Oxfordshire won by three to finish level.
They wrap up the campaign on July 5 at Kent, who won 126-101 against Middlesex.
Oxon 115 (9pts), Hampshire 115 (13)
(Oxon rinks first)
Rink 1: S Watts, G May, J King, M Charlett 21, A Clarke, A Marchant, C Thresher, R Morgan 14.
Rink 2: R Pink, C Weller, C Whitehead, B Sparkes 14, J Leggett, A Nixon, J Biggs, P Ward 19.
Rink 3: AJ Docherty, G Schwab, R Redford, M Sykes 22, J Sharpe, T Bailey, N Durman, L May 15.
Rink 4: K Holloway, I Henwood, S Richens, C Carpenter 17, M Aldren, J Cooke, M Griffiths, C Daniels 19.
Rink 5: L Young, S Cooper, B Lambourne, P Sharman 19, K Philip, C Cranham, C Bailey, J Marsland 25.
Rink 6: D May, K Alder, N Lewis, I Snowdon 22, L McCubbin, M Smith, J Bright, R Shelley 23.
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