GREAT HARWOOD shrugged off the continued absence of West Indies paceman Jermaine Lawson to topple league leaders BAXENDEN.
Harwood were expecting Lawson to arrive in time for the trip to Back Lane, but after further talks with his agent, they are now banking on him boarding a plane this week in time to debut at Read tomorrow.
For a third match running Harwood were indebted to their sub pro, with Rawtenstall paid man Sanjay Bangar cracking 112 out of their total of 196-9.
In reply Baxenden could only manage 164-9 to slip to a second successive defeat.
The result leaves them hanging on to top spot, albeit just nine points above seventh placed Harwood in the concertinaed Veka Senior League table.
The unlikely Harwood hero with the ball was Paul Houldsworth, whose 5-14 included the vital wickets of Baxenden pro Jon Fielding for 28 and Dominic Bulcock, who made 68.
And skipper Houldsworth admitted that he hadn't even planned to have a bowl, but once the wickets began to tumble, he decided to continue.
He said: "It wasn't really an inspired bowling change. The only reason I bowled was so that Sleepy and the pro could swap ends. I got a wicket straight away and you don't take a wicket-taking bowler off.
"It was a vital win for us as if we had lost we would have been three wins behind them. We couldn't really afford to lose. It's such a tight league this year. Most teams can beat most other teams."
Bangar's knock was particularly timely as the visitors were missing star batsman Allan Armer, who was away on his stag weekend. And they may have another selection headache to contend with if it is confirmed that Russell Whalley has broken his thumb, following an attempted catch in the field last weekend.
Next up is another tough trip to third-placed Read, although Harwood can draw on the recent memory of a resounding cup victory over tomorrow's opponents.
Baxenden will travel to Earby.
Struggling OSWALDTWISTLE IMMANUEL face a big game with bottom club Barnoldswick tomorrow after their latest defeat at Read. The hosts endured a long afternoon in the field thanks to an unbeaten century from Read opener William Driver (117), out of a total of 211-5. Andrew Metcalf took 2-34 as the Ossy bowlers struggled to make regular breakthroughs. Pro Ahmer Saeed held their reply together with a knock of 71, but although several partners made starts, no other batsman made more than 15 in Ossy's 185-9.