Hale Barns Second XI almost pulled off a second win in a row to start the 2021 season, but were forced to settle for a winning draw as they played out a high-scoring clash with Congleton CC.
Mike Hunter hit a classy 82 and Clive Collins also scored a half century, while Dave Saddington celebrated his first appearance since 2019 by taking four wickets during a terrific 15-over spell as the hosts finished their run chase 25 runs short with two wickets remaining.
Barns were put into bat on a seemingly flat deck and made the most of the favourable batting conditions, with openers Alex Castle and Collins both cashing in after surviving a couple of early drops.
Playing in just their second match as a combination, the pair remained unscathed for 22 overs and recorded a terrific century partnership to put the visitors in a commanding position.
However, with 106 on the board, the breakthrough was finally made when Castle fell an agonising three runs short of his maiden HBCC fifty, after being trapped lbw by Guy Baxendale for 47.
His downfall sparked a Congleton revival, with Baxendale turning one into three in fairly quick succession, including Collins for a patient 54, as the away side slipped to 123-3.
Hunter looked instantly assured, crashing his second delivery through the covers to the fence, but Barns continued to be pegged back with dismissals at the other end, including a fourth for Baxendale (4-54) as the score drifted to 153-5 with 11 overs remaining.
Andrew Hopper (14) struck a couple of boundaries in a brief cameo, but it was Hunter who got the innings back on track, punishing a couple of let offs by storming to a half century.
When he finally departed in the final over for an almost run-a-ball 82, HBCC had reclaimed the control and felt well set to pursue a victory at the halfway stage, as they set 231-8 from the allotted overs.
But Congleton got their run chase off to a flying start to put Barns on the backfoot, with Simon Prime and Stefan Stubbs taking advantage of the rapid outfield and short boundary on one side.
The pair scored significantly above the required rate in the opening 10 overs, amassing 59 runs without many troubles, but the introduction of Saddington finally brought some joy for the bowlers, dismissing Stubbs for 26.
Despite one end being tied up by the wily veteran, runs leaked at the other, with Prime racing to a half century, while new partner Rhys Lewis offered able assistance to guide the score to 120-1 with more than half of innings still remaining.
Another wicket for Saddington saw the back of Lewis (17) before the drinks interval, but it was the 33rd over when the game took a major twist, with Saddington seeing off the impressive Prime for a magnificent 77.
Barns were suddenly on the hunt for more wickets and found further success via Saddington, who claimed another victim before finishing his marathon stint with exceptional figures of 4-26.
Entering the last 10 overs of the game, all three results were in play as Congleton required 63 to win with six batsmen in reserve. Jack Wylie returned to the attack following an expensive opening spell and quickly experienced a change in fortune, leaving the home outfit five down.
Adam Woodall was the prized scalp for HBCC, and his resistance finally came to an end on 36 when Ross Dunleavy got in on the act to set up an intriguing final four overs.
However, despite Wylie (2-65) and Dunleavy (2-24) both doubling their tallies, Congleton held on to share the spoils, completing their innings on 206-8.