University of Warwick/Kenilworth produced their fourth successive win and most impressive scalp to date on Tuesday night when beating reigning Premier League champions Nottingham 3-2 on their own patch.
WarKens third string Mark Fuller went on first against Lewis Walters knowing his rubber had a strong chance of deciding the outcome of the entire night.
Fuller chased, harried and scrambled, putting in every ounce of effort but eventually lost out 11-8 in the fifth and deciding game.
Grace Gear, who in the absence of world number eight Sarah-Jane Perry was making her debut, pushed Egyptian Hana Ramadan hard in losing 3-0, but in so doing, acquitted herself admirably.
It looked all over for the visitors as Nick Wall went 2-0 down to Matt Broadberry. However, despite not being at his best, Wall fought back to grind out a win to maintain his 100 per cent record.
Indian star Mahesh Mangaonkar brushed aside the challenge of Nottingham’s number two Adam Auckland with some ease to leave the match hinging on the clash between world number 26 Dec James and the University of Warwick/Kenilworth’s Iker Pajares (world-ranked 55).
Pajares had been given a lesson in the reverse fixture which he lost 3-0 but in again losing the first to James he gave notice of his intentions, unsettling the higher-ranked player in fast, furious rallies.
The usually elegant James started to look ragged in the second as Pajares prevented him settling into a rhythm and it was the Spaniard who took the game to four.
He followed up by claiming the third game 11-7 and it looked all over in the fourth when Pajares took a lead into the final part of the game.
However, with Nottingham’s 13-match unbeaten run in jeopardy, James dug deep, saving a match point to take it into a decider.
The pendulum looked to have swung when he opened up a 6-2 lead in the fifth set after some brutal rallies.
However, Pajares’ speed of foot and thought turned the game around and helped him secure a career-best 6-11, 11-4, 11-7, 13-15, 11-8 success.
WarKens’ win now puts them in pole position for the runners-up spot in the Northern Division, with the visit of Pontefract, who they host on March 13, likely to decide who reaches the play-offs.
With the University of Warwick/Kenilworth just a point ahead of their visitors and the prospect of England’s top-ranked women Sarah-Jane Perry and Laura Massaro battling it out, it promises to be a mouthwatering prospect.
Throw in the potential visit of former world number one James Willstrop and tickets are expected to sell out fast.
They can be obtained from the University of Warwick Sports Centre on 02476 523011.