Yorkshire 460 (Lees 132, Ballance 71, Lehmann 58) and 225 for 2 dec (Lyth 114*, Lees 88) beat Durham 265 (Borthwick 53, Brooks 4-76) and 192 (Pringle 57*, Sidebottom 4-34) by 228 runs
As Yorkshire, pressing for a hat-trick of Championship titles, completed a thumping 228-run defeat of Durham, Headingley briefly basked in the feeling that the normal order of things had been restored. They remained top of the table for all but 10 minutes, which was hardly long enough to exhale a satisfied smile, before Middlesex's win at Trent Bridge reclaimed a one-point lead. But they had tasted the lead again and it felt good.
Somerset, lying third and suspected by Yorkshire, among others, of chicanery when it comes to preparation of pitches, visit Headingley next week while Middlesex head for the other side of the Pennines to face a Lancashire side that still needs points to stay up. "Somerset are full of confidence and playing good cricket, but it won't be a bunsen burner," Gale said. Everything seems to be heading towards a grand climax between Middlesex and Yorkshire at Lord's with the Championship at stake.
This was an emphatic Yorkshire win. Like the Mountain Ash trees in the gardens of the red-brick houses around the ground, they are at their most resplendent as September takes hold. Their batsmen are in commanding form, the pace bowlers as fit and fresh as they have been all season. They walked off the field on a blustery Headingley day in the way that the best Yorkshire sides should, applauding each other and the crowd with stern and satisfied expressions.
Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett and David Willey are about to be released from England duties. Only Rashid can be confident of a game next week. Steve Patterson must contend with personal issues. He had left the match for much of the third day - his captain, Gale, confirmed - because his father is seriously ill.
The final day belonged more than anybody to Ryan Sidebottom. He spent two months in pot in the first half of the season after suffering a hairline fracture of his ankle during a football keepy-uppy game. As far as cricket is concerned, his ambitions stretch more to winny-winny than keepy-uppy, and four cheap wickets, including a burst of 3 for 9 in 18 balls, swept aside Durham's resistance.
Durham were vulnerable when they resumed on 39 for 3, a target of 421 beyond the horizon. Less than nine overs into the day, they were 63 for 6 and Sidebottom had taken all of them, claiming the nightwatchman Graham Onions at cover, silencing Scott Borthwick with a stone-dead lbw and winning a second leg-before decision when Paul Collingwood fatally played no shot.
Sidebottom's impact has been limited this season to only seven Championship matches, but at 38 his threat remains as apparent as ever. It is more than six years since he called time on his England career, and returned to Yorkshire from Nottinghamshire. When he did he could not have imagined that in 2016 he might be as inspirational as ever, relishing the possibility of a third consecutive title, a possible benefit and another one-year contract for 2017.
Durham lack the resilience of early season. The side that played with such character to overcome Lancashire at Southport and Warwickshire at Edgbaston has been weakened by the prospect that several top players might respond to a financial crisis by departing at the end of the season. Ben Stokes has signed up again, but he will be absent with England. It is the Borthwicks and the Burnhams whose futures remains uncertain.
Graham Clark set Durham's equal-highest T20 score at Headingley last season, but he had become the seventh wicket to fall by lunch when Bresnan had him caught at the wicket. Over lunch, in the gentleman's barbers on St Michael's Lane, £4.50 a cut, men of a certain age checked their watches in case they would be late for the resumption.
When it came, the end soon followed: Michael Richardson's defiance ended with a wild drive at Sidebottom, Adam Lyth's neat slip catch accounted for Barry McCarthy and victory came in spectacular fashion when Jack Brooks left only one of Chris Rushworth's stumps standing, leaving Ryan Pringle with an unbeaten, attacking half-century to his name. Five wins logged this season, all of them at home.
Sidebottom remained forever grounded, and expressed the hope that Jason Gillespie, the coach who has been instrumental in Yorkshire's rebirth could return to Australia in triumph. "In the last two or three years I don't think we have always played great cricket as a team but when it has mattered we have stood up and been counted," he said. "Over the last few games we have grown in confidence as a team and with Dizzy going at the end of the season it would be great to send him off on a winning note."
Three miles from where Sidebottom was born, in the village of Almondbury on the northern fringes of the Peak District, is the first hotbed of Yorkshire cricket. The village weavers who made up the bulk of Lascelles Hall CC in the 19th century fed not just Yorkshire but England, their hand-eye co-ordination enhanced by their work, their physical fitness improved by the long uphill walk to the ground, their love of the game unquestioned.
Sidebottom, who took 89 wickets at 18 in Yorkshire's last two Championship triumphs, is a product of the same soil. His season's-best 4 for 34, his strops and curses, the sweat-stained brushes of his tangled hair, and his technical excellence are once again central to Yorkshire's challenge and, even as his career enters the evening shadows, the county is all the stronger for that.