PLYMOUTH defeated Sidmouth by 68 runs at Mount Wise to scramble clear of relegation on the last day of the season.
Six clubs were in danger of relegation going into round 18 in the Premier Division - and Plymouth had more to do than any of them to stay up.
The city side were 11 points adrift at the bottom of the table and not only had to win but needed results elsewhere to go their way.
The first glimmer of hope came when new filtered through that Torquay had slipped up badly at North Devon, falling short of the eight points they needed to stay up.
North Devon had made themselves safe by then – and Heathcoat got enough from their defeat by Bradninch to secure their status.
That left Sam Stein and his men sweating on the outcome of the Paignton-versus-Exeter game, the two teams directly above Plymouth in the table.
Plymouth needed an Exeter win to be sure of staying up – and the County Grounders finally delivered with three balls left in the last over.
“It was a really close finish at Paignton which could have gone either way right to the end,” said Stein.
“Following the game on line at first it looked like we were safe. Then it got closer and the possibility of a tie became apparent and that would have done for us.
“We were all sitting on the balcony at Plymouth as nervous as hell until we were sure Exeter had won.”
Had Paignton bowled out Exeter to win they would have been level on points and wins with Plymouth. Batting bonus points would have settled it then – and Paignton had one more!
It couldn’t have been much closer.
Plymouth recovered from 47 for five to make 175 all out – veteran Steve Luffman (33) and Ben Stein (45) putting on 55 for the sixth wicket to spark the comeback.
Plymouth have a lot to thank 53-year-old Luffman for this season. Not only has he filled in more than adequately behind the stumps in the absence of a specialist wicketkeeper , he has been one of their leading run scorers.
Fiazan Riaz (922) tops the list, followed byHal Kerton (271) then Luffman (262).
A double strike by Scott Barlow (3-40) plunged Plymouth back into trouble at 105 for seven, but Stein was still there and with Dan Goodey (37) more than holding an end 59 vital runs were added for the eighth wicket.
Sidmouth were 64 for one when they lost Luke Bess for 20 and ran into more trouble as Goodey (3-29) and Faizan Riaz (2-24) reduced them to 74 for six.
Barlow hung around for 29, but wickets fell to Sam Stein (4-21) as Sidmouth slumped to 107 all out.
Plymouth only just avoided relegation last season and skipper Stein knows they can’t carry on living dangerously.
“We know we are in a rebuilding phase and need to do some serious recruiting,” said Stein.
“There are one or two players we would like to talk to now the season is over with a view to joining us.
“Our problem in recent seasons has not been losing players to other clubs, but players leaving the area.
“Matt Hopper, Callum Whittaker, Harry Ramsden, Jake Luffman and James Walsh are all players whose jobs have taken them away. That’s almost half a side.
“If we were losing players to teams around us it would be worrying. We aren’t.
“Luckily we have held on in the Premier Division which should help us attract the new players we need.”