The Tasmanian Tigers have swept to outright victory over Victoria in Hobart on Sunday, securing a spot in their third consecutive Sheffield Shield final.
Set 337 from 73 overs to win and claim their own place in the decider, the Bushrangers suffered a disastrous middle-order collapse to give the Tigers real hope and then faded out late, Ryan Sidebottom the final batsman dismissed with the Vics still 112 short of their victory target.
Ben Hilfenhaus (2-55) first bounced out Jon Hastings (19) and then had Sidebottom caught at silly mid-off two balls later to send his team-mates into raptures and secure the 111-run win.
The victory also means Tigers coach Tim Coyle has the chance to complete his time in charge of the team by leading them in a third consecutive Shield final.
With the match between the Warriors and Queensland in Perth set to go down to the wire, the venue for the final is still to be decided, but the Tigers will host the five-day contest if the Bulls get across the line.
A century to 20-year-old Jordan Silk during the morning session and five-wicket haul to James Faulkner (5-56) were the standout performances for the Tigers on a dramatic day of Shield cricket.
The Victorians had all but forfeited their chance to win when a middle-order collapse saw them fall from 1-112 to 5-122, but it wasn't until Faulkner removed David Hussey (48) and Peter Handscomb (33) in quick succession that the Tigers looked like a clear favourite.
From the final 20 overs, the Bushrangers needed 138 runs for victory with five wickets remaining.
But before they could even switch to Twenty20 mode, suffered a huge blow when Handscomb was clean bowled by Faulkner, bringing Hastings to the crease.
Hastings was rapped on the pads first ball but survived the scare, getting the benefit of the doubt that Faulkner's delivery from around the wicket may have been sliding down leg side.
When Hussey followed in Faulkner's next over, his off stump knocked back by a length delivery that may have stayed slightly low, the game looked well beyond the visitors and Tasmania's fielders closed around the bat, scenting the win.
Faulkner's fifth came when he had Jayde Herrick (two) adjudged LBW with 11.4 overs remaining, bringing the victory well within Tasmania's grasp, and setting the scene for Hilfenhaus to clean up the tail.
With the match on an even keel and their chase progressing well, the Bushrangers had stumbled badly in the hour before tea, losing 4-10 in 21 deliveries at one stage to severely dent their chances of playing in the season decider.
Evan Gulbis (2-62) and Faulkner teamed to remove the top order, but it was skipper George Bailey's expert fielding to run out opposite number Cameron White for one that really put a wobble in the Victorian camp.
Facing his second ball, White nudged to cover and set off for a quick single, but hadn't counted on Bailey swooping to collect the ball one-handed and then under-arming the stumps down at the bowler's end.
The Tigers celebrated wildly, knowing White's wicket - on top of the losses of Rob Quiney (55), Marcus Stoinis (25) and Michael Hill (five) - had given them renewed hope of making their third consecutive Shield final.
Quiney and Chris Rogers (25) had added 62 for the first wicket and seemed to be operating so comfortably, the Bushrangers looked every chance of chasing down the target inside 73 overs.
Stoinis and Quiney then combined for a 54-run stand to move the score to 1-112 before Gulbis clean-bowled Stoinis and Faulkner snuck one through Quiney to leave the Vics hanging in at 3-116.
Earlier, the Tigers had resumed on 1-137 with young opener Silk going on to convert his third day half-century into his maiden first-class ton in some style.
Joined by Ricky Ponting (86) for most of the morning session, Silk pushed past the century thanks to a Hussey misfield at gully, but showed real signs of being a future star for the Tigers in compiling 127 from 210 deliveries with seven boundaries and two sixes.
Silk was eventually caught after skying an attempted slog across the line and Ponting was denied his second ton of the match when Jayde Herrick (3-97) got one to stay low and breach the former Test captain's defence.
Herrick and Fawad Ahmed (4-122) did the bulk of the bowling for the Bushrangers, Ahmed particularly prominent in bowling unchanged through the session.
While there appeared to be some conjecture around the timing of Tasmania's likely declaration, Bailey chose to close the innings at lunch, the score at 7-325 with an overall lead of 336 going into a pivotal afternoon of cricket that saw the Tigers surge to victory in a dramatic conclusion to an enthralling Shield encounter.
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia
First Posted 17 March, 2013 7:06PM AEST