London - Morne Morkel's four-wicket haul could not stop county champions Surrey falling just short in their quest for an unbeaten First Division campaign as they suffered a dramatic one-wicket defeat by Essex at the Oval on Thursday.
The final day of the 2018 English season ended in thrilling fashion, with Essex captain Ryan ten Doeschate's unbeaten 53 seeing the visitors to victory by the narrowest of margins.
Had Surrey, already crowned champions, triumphed they would have set a new record for the largest first-innings deficit conceded by a winning side in a first-class match.
They had seemed destined for defeat after being shot out for just 67 in their first innings and then seeing Essex pile up 477 for eight declared in reply, with the hosts a then huge 410 runs adrift.
Yet, in a remarkable turnaround, Surrey made 541 in their second innings on the back of hundreds from England one-day opener Jason Roy (128) and Test batsman Ollie Pope (114).
That left Essex needing 132 for victory and they nearly fell short, with former Proteas fast bowler Morkel - a key figure in Surrey's first title since 2002 - taking four for 28.
Just when it seemed Essex had done enough to win, there was a late twist when they lost their ninth wicket to a needless run out when veteran Dutch international ten Doeshcate called Matt Coles for a third that was never on and saw his partner run out.
Number 11 Matt Quinn survived the last three balls of a Morkel over, despite a fierce 88 mph bouncer crashing into his helmet, with Essex needing two more runs for victory.
But the 38-year-old ten Doeshcate, arguably one of the best cricketers produced by a non-Test nation, struck Jade Dernbach for the winning boundary in the next over.