Sussex beat Essex by 19 runs after the visitors had been bowled out for 190 in the Friends Life t20 clash at Hove.
Needing a partnership of some substance if they were to pose a threat to the Sharks 209-6, a third wicket stand between Mark Pettini and Greg Smith provided 49 runs in 6 overs to give the Eagles some hope but when Pettini was run out for 44, the loss of three more wickets in successive overs dealt the visitors hopes of completing their fourth successive victory in the competition a crushing blow.
James Franklin had already gone for 10 and Graham Napier for 6 and when Pettini joined them back in the dug-out, Essex were 82 for 3 in the eleventh over.
Greg Smith struck 39 from 26 balls that included three sixes but Ryan ten Doeschate went for 2 and when Smith was bowled by Will Beer, the Eagles were 103-5.
Then Scott Styris completed a return catch off Adam Wheater who had made 8 although the former Essex player gained the wicket at a painful cost leaving the field immediately with a suspected dislocated finger.
However, James Foster refused to give up the cause striking out freely and cleanly adding 28 in 2 overs with Tim Phillips, (9) then 32 in three overs with Tom Westley (13) to raise the Eagles hopes.
Twenty-five were needed from the last six balls but Foster fell to the third delivery having thumped 47 from 20 balls with four sixes and three fours when he pulled Chris Liddle to deep mid-wicket.
David Masters gave Liddle a return catch three balls later as Essex were bowled out from the last scheduled delivery of the match.
Earlier in the match, Reece Topley took 3-43 and Ryan ten Doeschate took 2 for 28 when the Sharks posted their second highest t20 score of 209-6. The foundations were laid by an 86 runs opening stand in 8 overs with Luke Wright scoring 40 and Chris Nash 52 while there were also valuable speedy contributions from Joe Gatting with an unbeaten 45 and Styris who had reached 36 when he became a Topley victim.
Sussex moved clear at the top of the South Group following their victory and the teams meet in the return at Chelmsford on Thursday.
Grayson reflects on Sussex Sharks defeat