Gloucestershire today maintained their 100 per cent record by taking the scalp of Warwickshire and are now favourites to be crowned English Men’s County champions for the first time in 42 years.
The South West champions followed up their day one victory over BB&O with a tense 5-4 triumph against their opponents from the Midlands.
That leaves Gary Ward’s side as the only team in the finals with a record of two wins from two – and needing only half a point from tomorrow’s match with Northumberland to guarantee the title.
In today’s other match BB&O defeated Northumberland by a margin of 6.5-2.5.
Both teams have one win from their two matches played and an outside chance of overall victory.
For Northumberland to win, they must beat Gloucestershire and hope to edge the title on game points.
BB&O could also claim the title on game points if Gloucestershire lose to Northumberland and they win by a big enough margin against Warwickshire
For Gloucestershire, though, the arithmetic is simple; avoid defeat against Northumberland and they will end a barren spell in this event stretching back to 1979.
Against Warwickshire today, Gloucestershire took a 2-1 lead from the morning foursomes into the afternoon singles thanks to victories for the pairings of Joe Harvey and Haider Hussain and Nick Day and Jake Phillips.
Only a fightback from Warwickshire’s Sam Easterbrook and Stephen Creed (pictured below) , who won the final two holes to claim victory on the 18th, prevented Gloucestershire making it a morning clean sweep.
In the afternoon it was far from plain sailing for Gloucestershire against a Warwickshire side showing real fighting spirit.
The destiny of the match points depended largely on the top singles game between England international Haider Hussain and Louis Sanders.
With Warwickshire well ahead in three singles matches and Gloucestershire cruising in the other two, the Hussain/Sanders battle was pivotal.
Standing all square on the 17th tee, Hussain produced two classy shots to set up a 15-foot eagle putt which he dully rolled into the cup.
Just for good measure Hussain (pictured below) won the 18th to claim a two holes victory and tip the balance in favour of Gloucestershire ahead of what promises to be a dramatic final day’s play.
Hussain – with a personal record of four wins out of four – said: “I realised by the 16th when a crowd gathered that my match was important.
“On the 17th I just bombed a drive and then hit a sweet iron shot to set up the eagle.
“I had hoped to win an individual title this season or even the Home Internationals with England, but I’d take the county title with these boys!
“We need to keep doing what we’re doing and focus on getting the win without letting anything else distract us.”
The other afternoon singles winners for Gloucestershire were Nick Day and Tom Workman.
Gloucestershire captain Ward added: “I’m so proud of the way these lads are playing and they are an amazing bunch of guys.
“We’ve only lost once in the league in four years and for me as a captain, I couldn’t ask for more.
“They now have the bit between their teeth. They are all bubbly and need to be calm , but they know what it means for the county.
“The last time we won this Simon Butler was in the team and his son Ed is in the side this time, so if we can get over the line just as we did in 1979 then it would be amazing.”
BB&O kept their hopes alive following a day one defeat to Gloucestershire by marking up a comprehensive win against Northumberland.
Having secured a 2-1 lead from the morning foursomes thanks to wins for the pairings of Ben Loveard and Taylor Paul and Olly Huggins and John Gough (pictured above) , BB&O emerged unbeaten from the six afternoon singles.
John Gough, Huggins and Paul were comfortable winners while Conor Gough, Loveard and Ben Quick claimed half points.
Northumberland were hampered on day two by a series of niggling injuries to key players.
However, captain David Gilroy will look for one final push from his players as he attempts to bow out as county captain with an elusive win in this event.