HOLDERS Herefordshire's grip on the Unicorns MCCA Trophy was loosened by another poor batting performance against Cheshire at Alderley Edge.
After restricting the home side to a gettable 261-6 from their rain-reduced 45 overs, Herefordshire were shot out for a disappointing 110 with only opener Liam Gwynne (35) making any serious contribution with the bat.
The defeat means that it will be Staffordshire and Cheshire who qualify from the group stages with Herefordshire eliminated along with Wales and Shropshire, who are the visitors to Brockhampton for the last of the round-robin games on Sunday.
Cheshire won the toss and chose to bat but their innings had hardly begun when an immense downpour, with rain and hail, sent the players racing for the pavilion.
Dan Conway, who bowled tidily to return 1-26 from seven overs, picked up a wicket almost immediately when play resumed two hours later but a century stand between Calum Rowe (68) and Rick Moore (51) had the visitors on the back foot.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan, an Alderley Edge club member, looked on as Moore was eventually well caught in the deep by Joe Crichard off skipper Matt Pardoe (2-55) after the pair had added 130 with Neil Pinner, the pick of the Herefordshire spinners with 1-22 from seven overs, trapping Rowe leg-before shortly afterwards.
Left-arm spinner Taylor Pugh, who finished with 2-55 from nine overs on his debut, put in a useful spell as Cheshire's middle-order fell away from 142-1 to 168-5.
But some ferocious hitting in the closing stages, especially from Wayne White, whose 42 included five sixes, and Ollie Freckingham, three sixes in an unbeaten 21, saw a late surge in the scoring rate.
Herefordshire's reply was quickly in trouble with Pardoe departing for just one.
Chris Whittock (six) and Pinner (12) soon followed and with leg-spinner Jack Williams (4-17) brushing aside the middle-order, Herefordshire's innings simply subsided.
In the end, it was only a last-wicket stand of 23 between Jamie McIlroy, whose unbeaten 18 included a massive six over mid-wicket, and Conway, who also hit a big six before being last out for 12, which took the score into three figures.
With Pardoe absent due to a family commitment on Sunday, Ben Stebbings is set to be recalled to the Herefordshire side which will take on Shropshire at Brockhampton.
Liam Gwynne will step up to take over the captaincy.