Durham 227 and 167 for 5 (Richardson 58) beat Sussex 211 (Brown 76) and 180 (Wells 51, Rushworth 5-38) by five wickets
In-form Durham finished their campaign with a fifth win in six games after beating Sussex by five wickets with a day to spare. Michael Richardson struck 58 and Ben Stokes a quickfire 45 as Durham chased down their victory target of 165 after dismissing Sussex for 180 in their second innings.
Despite their superb form at the end of the season, Durham had to settle for a sixth-placed finish in Division One after a miserable start to the campaign which saw them fail to win any of their first 10 matches. Sussex, meanwhile, remain 10 points ahead of them and will hang on to the fourth-place prize money unless Nottinghamshire win tomorrow.
Durham skipper Paul Collingwood, who took over the four-day captaincy in mid-season, hailed the spirit in his side: "I couldn't have asked for anything more in the second half of the season. We were in a dire situation but the players have shown a lot of pride and determination. Every single one of them has made a crucial contribution at some point."
Durham seamer Chris Rushworth took the last four Sussex wickets in the morning to achieve career-best figures for the third time this season, finishing with 5 for 38. Luke Wells failed to add to his overnight 51, falling to the 16th ball of the day when he edged Stokes to Phil Mustard, who claimed his 500th first-class victim. Rushworth did the rest, swinging the ball both ways to claim two lbw verdicts and a gully catch before last man Monty Panesar lobbed a catch to mid-on.
Durham needed 165 to win and Mark Stoneman got them off to a fluent start, but Keaton Jennings made only one before fending a steeply-rising ball from Lewis Hatchett to second slip. Hatchett also skidded one through Stoneman's back-foot defensive shot to bowl him for 24 before Stokes emerged at 34 for 2 and immediately cracked him for three fours.
Stokes made 45 off 49 balls before lifting Panesar to long-on, then Richardson took over. He pulled Hatchett for his fifth four to reach 50 off 123 balls just before Dale Benkenstein was bowled by Panesar with 27 needed.
The target was down to 15 when Hatchett straightened one off the pitch to have Richardson lbw, but previous captain Mustard easily picked off the remaining runs in partnership with his successor Collingwood.
"We had a bit of a chuckle as we came off," Collingwood said. "Phil has been magnificent and the struggle in the first half of the season was not down to his captaincy. It was a blip and it was a shock to us all, but I think the future is very bright."