Worcestershire 243 (Barnard 55, Mullaney 4-31) and 229 for 2 (Mitchell 139*) beat Nottinghamshire 193 (Barnard 4-71) and 275 (Wessels 60, Leach 5-69) by eight wickets
There was to be no perfect send-off for Chris Read in his final Championship match at Trent Bridge. Instead, after two decades of distinguished service, it all ended with a first defeat of the season, by eight wickets against Worcestershire, which has thrown the Division Two promotion race wide open. Read knows his real retirement is three weeks away, with work still to be done.
Daryl Mitchell's measured, unbeaten century - 139 from 212 balls - has ensured that Nottinghamshire, runaway leaders all season, no longer look quite so impregnable. They follow this loss against Worcestershire with tricky away games against Northants and Sussex, two more sides with Division One ambitions.
Remarkably, victory completed an outstanding treble for Worcestershire who have beaten Notts this season in all three formats of the game - this against a side that have won both limited-overs trophies and, even with this defeat, remain on course for the Division Two title.
In early season, Nottinghamshire blew away opponents with the pace bowling of James Pattinson and Stuart Broad. The contest is more even now and they will need to address it with greater composure than they managed against a highly-professional Worcestershire side which left their coach, Steve Rhodes, bursting with pride.
Worcestershire were strong favourites when they resumed on 123 for 2, in search of 226, but few expected them to complete their task with such utter certainty. Mitchell, who conceded the captaincy with some reluctance last September, must regard the decision with more equanimity now, with six Championship hundreds to his name: only Kumar Sangakkara, for Surrey, has made as many.
"It's nice to be in good company because Kumar's not a bad player - but he got there in about eight games," Mitchell wryly observed.
Along the way, he became only the second player to reach 1,000 first-class (and Championship) runs for the season, something else which only Sangakkara had achieved. As England know to their cost, it has not been a summer when county batsmen have been thrusting themselves into prominence by scoring heavily.
Joe Clarke, who was dismissed for a first-ball duck in Worcestershire's first innings, provided support in an unbroken partnership of 106, by making 28 not out. Brett Hutton was exasperated by several early play-and-misses, including an appeal for a catch at the wicket that was turned down, but then conceded 14 off an over and the job was as good as done.
Notts' recognition that their chances were slim was encapsulated by the decision to start to the day, if only briefly, with the left-arm slows of Samit Patel. Patel, of course, had dismissed Shahid Afridi first ball in the NatWest Blast semi-final and perhaps felt some magic dust remained, but more relevant was memories of his central part in a cramping-up a Worcestershire run chase two years earlier.
There was to be no repeat. By the time Patel returned to the attack, Worcestershire's victory was beckoning. Mitchell marked his hundred by lofting him to the short boundary for extra-cover sixes and then beat some lackadaisical off-side fielding by Cheteshwar Pujara and Alex Hales to seal the victory.
"It's certainly my best hundred of the summer, possibly my best ever in those tough circumstances," Mitchell said. "They have a really good attack, on a spicy wicket and the state of the game as well. It was a massive game for us so to get us over the line is very pleasing.
"We had a good chat beforehand, this morning, and we felt that we'd earned the right to be a bit more positive, having done the hard work yesterday. Obviously, at the start the ball was 40 overs old, so it was get in and play some shots, because we were also aware there might be a bit of weather around later."
Worcestershire have closed the gap on Nottinghamshire to 15 points with both counties having two matches remaining. With Notts out of action next week, Worcestershire could conceivably go top if they beat bottom club Leicestershire at New Road. They are still awaiting confirmation that R Ashwin, the India spinner who did not take a wicket here in seam-orientated conditions, will be available to bowl on something more to his liking.