MIDDLEWICH suffered an attack of the title collywobbles - and escaped.
Although they crashed at Malpas, the damage was limited because rivals Weaverham were halted by rain.
There are 10 points between the two sides, who meet at Wallerscote Road on Saturday.
None of their batsmen managed more than 16 and Middlewich only scored 109 on an inconsistent surface.
Their innings never gathered momentum - but then, neither did Malpas's.
Gavin Tomlinson and Stuart Price were soon among the wickets and the home side were vulnerable at 40-6.
By now, the match was being played in a drizzle. The advantage swung Malpas's way at 78-6 - and back again as two more wickets fell.
The hosts crept closer and tension grew over the last few overs. With 10 runs still needed and the last two batsmen at the crease, the game was on a knife-edge until Malpas edged to victory.
* WEAVERHAM were put into bat at Hale Barns and were struggling at 98-6 when proceedings came to a halt. Rob McMillan and Guy Groves both scored 27.
Weaverham moved into the semi-final of the Chester Boughton Hall knock-out on Thursday, when they beat Bunbury by seven wickets.
Bunbury struggled to 107-8 (Jon Lightfoot 3-12, Barry Crellin 3-15, Jamie Allen 2-15) and the same three did the damage as Weaverham scored 110-3, with Lightfoot (38 not out), Crellin (35) and inform Allen (27) providing the runs. Weaverham meet Barrow in the semi-final on Monday.
They secured their second successive win with a good all-round display at home.
Henryk Kazmierczak snaffled 2-19 off 16 overs and Alan Holcroft 3-30 off 16 overs as Ashley ended up on 117.
A third-wicket partnership of 61 between Phil Harris, who batted through the innings for 61 not out, and Anthony Mainwairing (29 not out) saw Weaverham through to 118-2 in only 24 overs.
* OAKMERE came close to a much-needed victory against high-fliers Mere, which would have eased the pressure on Weaverham and Middlewich.
They scored 187-8 after slipping to 80-5, the innings being pulled round by Ian Eaton (57), Craig Phelan (37) and Jon Haslam (27).
Mere showed no interest in chasing the target, especially when their first five batsmen failed to reach double figures.
Andy Norton (5-34 off 22 overs) and Paul Hutchinson (2-18) whittled away the wickets as time ran out.
Oakmere Seconds (160-7) came within 11 runs of victory at Mere Seconds (170-6 - Chris Nelson 3-33). A good opening stand between Saeed Kara (49) and Ian Morgan gave Oakmere a firm base. Jamie Mackin continued the chase with 29 and Phil Nelson hit lustily for 32, before 8.15pm arrived with three overs to be bowled.
* DAVENHAM hit 166-7 chasing Runcorn's 241-4 declared at Butchers Stile.
* Second in the Third Division, BARNTON travelled to leaders Barrow - but the 'who's best' argument remains unsettled.
Barnton made a great start, restricting their hosts to 86-6 off 34 overs - with Nick Yarwood, Jeff Langham and James Ollier all bowling tidy spells backed up by good fielding - when rain intervened and the match was abandoned.
Barnton Seconds (133-7 declared) beat Barrow Seconds (80) at Broomsedge. Captain Dave Ollier (36 not out) topped the batting.