Surrey 211 (Bailey 5-53) and 306 (Burns 70) beat Lancashire 247 (Vilas 61, Bohannon 52) and 264 (Morkel 6-57) by six runs

An astounding one-handed reflex catch by Will Jacks at short leg broke Lancashire's resistance and gave Surrey victory by just six runs in a match for the ages at The Oval.

The victory preserves Surrey's unbeaten run in the County Championship and keeps them 32 points clear of Somerset in second place after their win against Essex at Taunton.

This match had shifted to and fro throughout 10 sessions of absorbing play, and right up to the last ball was balanced so precariously that one wise young head in the press box had prepared for the eventuality of a tie by discovering that Surrey's last one was in 1908.

In the opening session, Morne Morkel looked to have taken Surrey to the brink of victory with a sensational three-wicket burst that first broke a stubborn partnership of 78 between debutant Josh Bohannon and Steven Croft, then exposed Lancashire's usually fragile tail.

Bohannon's dismissal may be a harbinger of things to come. Surrey captain Rory Burns, mindful that the pink Kookaburra ball was so soft it was failing to carry to the slips, even off a bowler of Morkel's considerable pace, had stationed himself at second slip, almost suicidally close to the batsman. Instantly his bravery reaped dividends as Bohannon drove forcefully, the ball screeching to Burns who clung on quite brilliantly.

With England in a perennial search for an opener and with a constantly changing slip cordon that can barely hold on to the simplest of chances, the chance of a call up for Burns, this season's leading run scorer, grows stronger by the day.

When Joe Mennie fell to another snorter from Morkel, edging behind to Ben Foakes, Lancashire's hot pot looked well and truly cooked at 209 for 8, still needing a further 63 for victory. Amar Virdi was keeping one end tight while Morkel was wreaking havoc from the other end. The prospect of a second new ball was hoving into view, but Graham Onions decided to smash Morkel out of the attack. An unusual, unlikely and hugely risky stratagem, one might have thought, but one that worked wonders as he planted the ball over the long-on boundary.

Morkel was duly replaced with Rikki Clarke, but the new ball was not taken. It was a tricky decision for Burns. Virdi was wheeling away economically, the pink new ball in this match has leaked runs, and the old one is softer than marshmallow but with Sam Curran unused and therefore fresh, it began to look like an increasingly capricious decision.

At lunch Lancashire had inched to 247 for 8, adding 70 runs in 31 overs, 16 of them delivered by the diligent Virdi. Straight after the break, Burns took the new ball. Curran, who damaged his hand fielding off his own bowling on the third day, was smote down the ground off the first ball for six by Onions. The target now just 18 runs away.

Whilst there were no confirmed reports of umbrellas being gnawed through or spectators being taken away in ambulances as reportedly happened in 1882 at The Oval, the crowd was becoming increasingly panicked. Burns was taking his time between balls. Fielders were stationed in far flung parts. Then Morkel, resuming from the Pavilion End, castled Onions. Fifteen more needed for the last pair. Surely the game was now Surrey's. Tom Bailey and Matt Parkinson had other ideas. An edged four past the diving third man and a coupled of squeezed singles took Lancashire to within one blow of the tie.

By now, players and spectators in Taunton were watching the action on TVs in the pavilion. If Lancashire could get over the line, Somerset would move to within just 16 points of Surrey and play them in the penultimate match of the season. Suddenly Surrey's supposedly insurmountable lead at the top of the table looked exceedingly precarious.

Back at The Oval, Parkinson was on strike. Short leg stationed about three yards from the bat. Spectators pacing hither and yon, barely able to watch. Then the coup de grace. A short ball into the ribs. Parkinson clipped it firmly to the right of Jacks who, staying crouched but watching the ball, stuck out an instinctive right hand. The ball stayed put and he was mobbed by delirious team-mates. The crowd of around a thousand bellowed their approval, relief and belief that the title is now destined to return to Surrey after a 16-year sabbatical.

Morkel has transformed the Surrey attack from reliable grafters into the most potent strike force in the country. Last season no one took more than Gareth Batty's 25 wickets, and apart from Clarke, no one averaged below 29. Last season Surrey managed to win only two of their 14 games. In part, moribund pitches were to blame but there was a lack of cutting edge.

This time round, led by Morkel's 33 wickets at 14.12, they have five bowlers who have already taken 25 wickets or more and all of them at an average below 28.30. This victory was their seventh in nine matches. And, yes, the pitches at The Oval have offered much more to the bowlers.

This match was won without Jason Roy, Scott Borthwick (both injured) and Ollie Pope (England duty). Surrey's squad may well be tested further if Burns gets a call-up and Sam Curran is recalled, but victories like this, whilst being excruciatingly uncomfortable for their passionate fans, bring an air of destiny to their title challenge and it is the County Championship title those fans prize more than any other.

As many a Surrey supporter gleefully shouted at the end of this truly terrific match, "who needs The Hundred?"