Durham 500 for 8 (Breese 121, Di Venuto 90, Mustard 81, Smith 81) beat Kent 225 (Key 58, Harmison 4-89) and 204 (McLaren 65*, Kemp 54, Thorp 7-88, Harmison 3-58) by an innings and 71 runs

No hiding the delight at clinching the win ... then the wait started © Getty Images

Callum Thorp produced the bowling performance of his career, and Steve Harmison overcame a fractured left wrist to scythe through the tail, as Durham marched towards their first County Championship title with a thumping innings-and-71-run victory against Kent at Canterbury. The celebrations had to be put on hold for a while, as their only remaining rivals, Nottinghamshire, were set a massive and improbable 442 for victory against Hampshire, but at 3.57pm, Nottinghamshire's challenge officially petered out, and an historic achievement could be formally recognised.

Durham's victory had put them eight points clear of Nottinghamshire, on 190 to 182, and meant that anything less than a Notts win over Hampshire would suffice for a side that only became a first-class county in 1992. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Kent's capitation confirmed their relegation for the first time since the two-division Championship was introduced in 2001.

The day began with Kent's backs firmly against the wall after the loss of five wickets on the third evening, but so long as Ryan McLaren and Justin Kemp remained, so too did hope. Kemp moved to his fifty within minutes of the start, and the pair had taken their sixth-wicket stand to 107 when Thorp made the breakthrough - his sixth of the innings - as Kemp drove loosely outside off for Dale Benkenstein to take a fine low catch at gully.

Thorp, who comes from Perth but has British-born parents, then claimed his career-best figures with his - and Durham's - seventh wicket of the innings when Yasir Arafat edged to Michael Di Venuto at second slip for 18, but the prospect of him claiming all ten was ended when Harmison found his range to spectacular effect in his 21st over of the innings.

Steve Harmison bowls Martin Saggers to complete Durham's win © Getty Images
Having suffered a fractured left wrist after dropping a Geraint Jones cut shot on the third day, Harmison was bowling in a cast, but that didn't seem to affect his rhythm too dramatically. James Tredwell shouldered arms to a fine delivery that nipped back to detonate his off stump, and within three Harmison deliveries, it was all over. Robbie Joseph pushed tentatively outside off for Di Venuto to claim his second catch of the morning, and Martin Saggers was comprehensively bowled for a first-ball duck.

As Saggers and the not-out McLaren trudged disconsolately off the field and into the second division, Harmison roared down the pitch in triumph, to be buried beneath a sea of his team-mates. Their triumph would not be ratified for another four-and-a-quarter hours - by which time the team bus was partying its way towards the M1 - but deep down, Durham already know that the title was theirs.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo