Durham 180 for 5 (Stoneman 61, Richardson 37, Jennings 36) beat Gloucestershire 161 (J Taylor 80) by 19 runs
A fresh England fast bowler, snorting with ambition and with only 32 overs on the clock for his county all season, is a wonderful attribute for a side seeking to reach NatWest Blast Finals Day. Durham had that player in Mark Wood, whose England career has been disrupted by injury, but who took out his frustrations on Gloucestershire in Bristol to clinch a place at Edgbaston.
Gloucestershire, met by Durham's 180 for 5, needed the second highest T20 total ever achieved at Bristol to progress, but within Wood's hostile first two overs, with his pace around 90mph, that target had receded into the distance. Hamish Marshall, cramped on an attempted pull, spliced to Jennings at square leg and Ian Cockbain, with 499 runs to his name in the group stages, fell for nought as he uncomfortably fended another short ball to the same fielder.
They succumbed for 161, getting closer than they ever imagined in a wonderful tie because of a truculent half-century from Jack Taylor, who stared down Gloucestershire disarray at 61 for 6 in the 11th and tore into the legspin of Scott Borthwick and malfunctioning medium pace of Paul Collingwood in turn, Collingwood forced out of the attack because of two full tosses above waist high: add three legitimate balls and he spilled 22 runs. He was probably relieved to have to call it a day.
Taylor, who finished with 80 from 41 balls, had taken Gloucestershire to within 27 from the last 12 when Wood returned for his last over. Wood had damaged Gloucestershire but not quite killed them. Ludicrously, Andrew Tye was run out risking an unlikely second to Usman Arshad at fine leg when it would have been wiser to give Taylor the strike. Even more galling for Taylor was the finale when he ended up at the same end as his brother, Matt, and was run out with an over remaining. Brotherly telepathy can never be guaranteed.
Wood played the last of his eight Tests against Pakistan in Dubai in October, since when he has endured operations on the front and back of his ankle in turn. Four matches across all three competitions for Durham have been the sum of a lost season - well, almost lost because on the evidence of this 19-run victory, his zest is unimpaired and he now has a Finals Day to plan for. If his ankle proves resilient enough, and it cannot be guaranteed, a rewarding England career can still lie ahead. England might be tempted to give him an outing in the ODI series against Pakistan.
This tie was not all about Wood, far from it. Chris Rushworth, probing intelligently around off stump, was an ideal foil, and he removed Michael Klinger, Gloucestershire's rock, with one that leapt off a length and drew surely one of the great wicketkeeping catches of this or any other season, from Michael Richardson, standing up. It helped to win him the Man-of-the-Match award.
Mark Stoneman is on his way to Surrey at the end of the season and Durham, deep in the financial mire, fear that others might follow, Wood and Scott Borthwick among them. But Stoneman also did his utmost to provide a parting gift of a NatWest Blast trophy as he struck 61 from 41 balls to ensure a formidable total.
Gloucestershire had dominated the South Group while Durham squeezed into the last eight on the final night of the group stages in the North, but for the third successive night a North Group county progressed with Yorkshire - a weakened Yorkshire, it has to be said - hoping to complete the set against Glamorgan in Cardiff on Thursday.
Bristol rarely produces such inviting batting surfaces. Gloucestershire's masters of disguise, the expert Australian Tye and his homegrown apprentice Benny Howell, went for almost 10 an over. Howell, the leading wicket-taker in the Blast this season, had conceded under seven an over throughout the group stage, and by the time he silenced Stoneman at long-on, the opening stand had reached dangerous proportions.
Stoneman had also been instrumental in Durham reaching the last eight, sharing a record Twenty20 stand for Durham of 141 with Calum McLeod to see off Derbyshire. This time his opening stand of 96 with his fellow left-hander, Keaton Jennings, took Durham deep into the 11th over. It was only the second time they had passed 50 all season. Jennings is one Durham player who has confirmed he will remain in the north east
Durham have fought well in adversity all season, not just in the Blast but the Championship, too, and Stoneman quickened their resolve, gaining momentum with hits over the top and delicate glides.
Gloucestershire lacked their wicketkeeper Gareth Roderick, loaned Phil Mustard from Durham for the rest of the season then by cruel quirk of fate were drawn against them in the quarter-final and understandably were refused permission to play him.
That brought a first game under floodlights for Pat Grieshaber, a 19-year-old from Bath who Jack Russell, the most treasured Gloucestershire wicketkeeper of all, rates highly, but Stoneman might have been run out on 45 by a wicketkeeper more adept at saving half a second by fielding the ball in front of the stumps. Such enhancements take time. He also drew his own fan club, a group of mates stripped to the waist with his name emblazoned in black across their chests.
Jennings fell swinging at Tye for 36, Jack Burnham could not take advantage of a let-off when the umpire failed to adjudge him caught at the wicket - Tom Smith finding marked turn - and Gordon Muchall pottered to an unbeaten 15 to no real purpose, but Richardson also found inspiration. He had only ever struck one T20 six (in his defence, the Chester-le-Street boundaries are extensive) but he produced three in his 37 off 21 balls.
Write Durham off at your peril. We keep writing it, but we never learn.