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Darren Cousins roared in with a sensational three-wicket burst at Wantage Road to earn in-form Northamptonshire a victory that virtually assures them of promotion into the Championship's Division One for next season.
The former Essex paceman snapped up Gloucestershire's last three wickets - Martyn Ball, Jon Lewis and Tom Cotterell - in the space of nine deliveries with the second new ball, seeing Northants home by an innings and 74 runs with ten balls to spare.
The visitors looked to be heading for safety at 202-7 with eleven overs of the final hour gone, but Cousins then induced a fatal error from Ball who miscued an attempted pull, and the two tail-enders were dispatched swiftly.
It was a fifth straight Championship win for Matthew Hayden's men, who have extended their lead at the top of the second division table with two rounds of matches remaining.
Off-spinners Jason Brown and Alec Swann made important early inroads, Brown dismissing opener Tim Hancock with his first ball of the morning as Gloucestershire crumbled to 110-5 either side of lunch, despite a battling 39 from Dominic Hewson.
Skipper Mark Alleyne (18) and Jack Russell (41) held the fort for an hour-and-three-quarters until Hayden produced a master stroke by calling up veteran seamer Paul Taylor to bowl his occasional left-arm spin. The move paid off handsomely as Alleyne edged to Hayden himself at slip, and Russell was bowled looking to cut.
Jeremy Snape (23 not out) looked set to deny his former county, but Cousins swept away Gloucestershire's remaining batsmen to clinch a magnificent win.
Cousins earns Northants win and also certain promotion
Darren Cousins roared in with a sensational three-wicket burst at Wantage Road to earn in-form Northamptonshire a victory that virtually assures them of promotion into the Championship's Division One for next season
Gloucestershire batsmen battle on at Northampton
Northamptonshire's bowlers managed only two successes in their quest for victory against Gloucestershire at Wantage Road today
Four wickets apiece for Brown and Cousins
Jason Brown and Darren Cousins picked up four wickets apiece as Northamptonshire, top of the County Championship's second division, forced Gloucestershire to follow on 283 behind on a rain-shortened day at Wantage Road
Gloucestershire in danger of following-on
Gloucestershire stood in danger of being forced to follow on after losing five pre-lunch wickets to Northamptonshire's in-form attack at Wantage Road today