Yorkshire 610 for 6 dec (Lyth 251, Rashid 159*, Bairstow 60) beat Lancashire 278 (Smith 57, Reece 53, Prince 53) and 314 (Khawaja 117, Rashid 5-117) by an innings and 18 runs

For well over five months and on 31 grounds 18 teams contest the two divisions of the County Championship. For long periods of the summer it is not clear quite what the shape of the four-day season will be. Then, sometimes quite suddenly, the beguiling kaleidoscope becomes an all but clear picture. The final afternoon of this round of games was such a time.

While Durham were beating Nottinghamshire at Chester-le-Street, Yorkshire's outstanding team were choking the life out of Lancashire's second innings at Old Trafford and completing an utterly deserved innings victory. Andrew Gale's men now have a 26-point lead at the top of Division One and, barring the sort of disasters this deeply impressive team seems unlikely to encounter, the pennant is going back to Headingley for the first time since 2001.

Whether the title is sealed at Trent Bridge, where the leaders meet Nottinghamshire next week, or at Headingley in the final round of games, does not matter that much. It will be a major shock if Gale's men blow it now.

It says something that Yorkshire's first victory against their oldest rivals in 16 attempts will be remembered not so much because it ended that dismal run or because it was achieved at Old Trafford, but because it set up a Championship win these players have craved for a couple of years and so nearly achieved last year. Yet the triumph also had its sour aspect when skipper Gale was banned for two matches after his heated verbal altercation with Ashwell Prince on the third evening of the game.

That dispute means that Gale will miss games for which he was not certain to be selected, given that Joe Root, Gary Ballance and Tim Bresnan may also be available. It would certainly be a shame if Yorkshire's probable triumph was to be clouded by Gale's disciplinary problem. Likewise, it would be wrong to let the fine cricket played by Gale's players be forgotten amid the brouhaha caused by a lost temper and foolish comments.

On the final day of this game much of that fine cricket was played by Adil Rashid, who bowled unchanged from the Statham End during the morning session yet had only the wickets of Prince, caught down the leg side by Bairstow, and Steven Croft, brilliantly snaffled one-handed by diving second slip Kane Williamson, to show for his efforts on a hard pitch from which the legspinner extracted bounce and turn.

Lancashire lunched on 241 for 4 with Usman Khawaja unbeaten on 111, having played by far his best innings for the county he joined in June. The home side were only 91 in arrears and the outcome of the game was nothing like settled.

An hour after the resumption, however, Yorkshire's win was all but sealed. Gale took the new ball immediately the players returned and Jack Brooks removed both Alex Davies and Tom Smith in four accurate overs. When Smith, Lancashire's last recognised batsman, edged a catch to Bairstow, Adam Lyth turned to the dressing room and clenched his raised fists in undisguised, unfettered joy. Yorkshire were nearly home.

Next over Khawaja was smartly stumped by Bairstow when he came down the pitch to the leg spinner's quicker ball and Lancashire were 254 for 7. The last three wickets added 60 runs most of them coming in a last wicket entertainment between Stephen Parry and Tom Bailey which did little more than irritate Yorkshire.

Then from the Pavilion End, Lyth, whose double-hundred was one of highlights of the game, bowled Parry for 28 and one of the more memorable wins in even Yorkshire's illustrious history was completed. Rashid ended the innings with figures of 5 for 117 to add to his 3 for 109 in the first innings and an unbeaten 159. One could say he had enjoyed a decent game.

For Lancashire, of course, this defeat and Durham's win deepens their already severe relegation problems. Glen Chapple acknowledged that his side needs to win both their remaining games and they go to Hove next Tuesday. The prospects are not promising.

None of which concerned Yorkshire coach Jason Gillespie as he reviewed one of his team's most famous victories and one of the county's more eventful days.

"It was a lovely win," he said "We set our goal to play real positive disciplined cricket. I don't think we were at our best with the ball in the first innings, but the batting was outstanding - I was especially pleased with how we attacked the spinners.

"We just needed to stay patient. I thought Rashid was outstanding, and Brooks has a happy knack of finding a wicket out of nowhere. The way we went about it was absolutely fantastic.

"It's a great position to be in, no question. But we've got Nottinghamshire away and they're a bloody good team. We're under no illusions, it's going to be a tough challenge for us down at Trent Bridge. We've got a lot of work to do yet, there's still eight days cricket to play."