EALING fell one wicket shy of maximum points at Winchmore Hill - but it was enough to see them hold on to top spot in the Middlesex County League title with closest rivals Teddington also thwarted at the weekend.
Having posted a very healthy 274-9 from 50 overs, the cham-pions had Winchmore staring at defeat, but they were unable to claim the 10th wicket and had to settle for four points from a draw.
The loss of 12 overs due to rain proved costly as Winchmore's final pairing held on for the final three overs.
David Holt and Chris Peploe shared top billing - both plundering 57 runs.
Peploe continues to shine and Ealing have the benefit of his undivided attention now - the spinner having quit playing for Middlesex after five years with the county.
"The arrival of Shaun Udal this year convinced Chris he should give up playing for the county's second team, which can be a bit soul-destroying when you feel you should be getting a chance," said Ealing skipper Luke Stoughton.
"He had some interest from Derbyshire earlier in the season but will look to do something else.
"We are happy though and he has always been a lot more concerned with our results than Middlesex's!"
Ealing's frustrations were mirrored at Teddington, where Ealing's closest rivals for the title chalked up 265-7 but fell two wickets short of claiming all the points.
There may yet be a twist in the final five weeks of the season, however, because Finchley are far from out of it.
They thrashed Brentham at Meavale Road by 10 wickets - a result that takes them to within 16 points of the leaders, who they host on the final day of the season on September 6.
Brentham were never really at the races, collapsing to 70 all out in less than 33 overs, thanks mainly to returns of 6-34 from Finchley's Steve Blyghton.
It took just 20 overs for the visitors to chalk up the runs they needed to equal Ealing's record of seven wins.
It was Brentham's 11 defeat in 13 games - their centenary season continuing to be one they would probably rather see the back of as soon as possible. Only a miraculous transformation in fortunes would see them beat the drop.
It was a bad day for promotion-chasing Shepherds Bush in Division Two, who slipped to only their third defeat of the season.
They were bowled out for 151 at Richmond - who drew level on points with the Bush as a result.
A hat-trick from Usman Sikander (4-35) and a spell of of 4-52 from Luke Edghill applied the pressure - Robbie Watts offering some resistance with an innings of 53.
Former Middlesex batsman Nick Compton top-scored with 64 as the home side reached their winning target for the loss of only two wickets.
The result pleased Acton, who have not given up hope yet of claiming second spot.
They are only 12 points adrift of the Bush now after a winning draw against leaders North Middlesex, but they were agonisingly close to doing even better.
Defending a total of 177 all out from 41.3 overs, they had North middlesex on the ropes at 155-9 by the close and staring at a fourth defeat of the summer.
Ealing's second XI must feel they have one hand on the second teams trophy after romping to a comfortable win at home to Richmond while closest challengers Eastcote and Brondesbury both failed to keep up the pace.
Neil Fairburn's knock of 52 and an undefeated 68 from Derek Lane eased Ealing home after Zuben Bhettay had helped reduce Richmond to 190-0 after taking 5-83.
At the other end of the table, Acton and Brentham can only look on enviously.
They met at Acton and the draw ensured both stay in the relegation zone. Acton might have claimed all the points for only the fourth time this season, however. They were 38 runs better off than Brentham at close of play, having taken nine of the visitors' wickets.
The table reads: Ealing 94 points, Eastcote 66, Brondesbury 66, Teddington 60, Stanmore 55, Hampstead 53, Southgate 49, Richmond 47, Acton 36, Brentham 21.
Shepherds Bush second XI continue to show signs of life near the foot of Division Two and picked up four handy points in their draw with Winchmore Hill - a result that takes them to within a point of Harrow Town and safety.
Neil Dyment top-scored with 69 as the Bush reached 275-4 from 48 overs and six Winchmore wickets fell before play was halted for the day.
Old Actonians held on - just - for a point in their Division Three trip to South Hampstead. They closed on 212-9 in reply to South Hampstead's 259-8. Their runs took eight overs more to accumulate than the home side's superior total.