Keaton Jennings lead Lancashire’s winning chase over Hampshire with a unbeaten 40, but the Specsavers County Championship victory was bittersweet for the already relegated county.
Lancashire had their relegation confirmed to Division Two on day two when they failed to reach a third batting point.
In an ironic twist, Lancashire would have stay up if they had scored 27 more first innings runs, to reach 300, with Nottinghamshire failing to beat Somerset.
The visitors did lose two wickets in two balls during their chase of 113, as Fidel Edwards grabbed his 53rd and 54th wickets of the season.
The fast bowler found the outside of Alex Davies’ bat to edge to a diving Sam Northeast at third slip before producing a bullet delivery to dislodge debutant Brooke Guest’s off-stump.
Jennings, though, carried over the line in attacking style – carting Kyle Abbott for four boundaries in the first over.
He gave Joe Root and the England coaching staff a timely nod before the Test side fly out to Sri Lanka.
Liam Livingstone, 48 not out, added the remaining 73 with Jennings in a bashful style – with the captain completing the eight wicket victory by smashing Ian Holland over the top of the leg side in successive balls.
Lewis McManus had started the day alongside Kyle Abbott with a lead of 92, but only four runs were added before the first of the two remaining wickets fell.
Abbott, who ended the season with a creditable batting average of almost 26 from No.10, was bowled by a big in-swinger from Tom Bailey for 21
McManus, now with Fidel Edwards, eked Hampshire’s lead over 100 before the West Indian was bowled, again by Bailey – who claimed eight wickets in the match.
The scalp meant Bailey completed the campaign as the highest wicket-taker in Division One, with 64 wickets – seven more than teammate Graham Onions and Essex’s Jamie Porter, who could still overtake him.
It also meant McManus was left stranded on 44 on his first Championship appearance since June, having lost the wicketkeeping gloves to Tom Alsop.
Lancashire then knocked off the 113 required for victory in exactly 13 overs.
Lancashire have been relegated to Specsavers County Championship Division Two but are on course to beat Hampshire.
Lancashire needed to reach a minimum of 300 and beat Hampshire, together with Nottinghamshire fail to reach 200 – which they did - and then lose to Somerset.
But after Fidel Edwards blasted through the tail with the second new ball they fell 27 runs short of the important 300 and their demotion to the second tier was confirmed.
However, Lancashire are still on top of their clash at the Ageas Bowl as they restricted Hampshire to 178 for eight – the hosts leading by 92 runs.
Next season will therefore be the first time since 2015 that Lancashire will play their cricket in Division Two, on that occasion they only spent one year there before they were immediately promoted back to Division One.
They join Worcestershire, who were relegated last week against Essex, in dropping down this season.
Rob Jones had brilliantly batted Lancashire in the right direction to stay up with a morning half century.
Jones, who had come into the game with an average of less than 10 in seven Championship innings this season, added 84-runs with Dane Villas for the sixth wicket, after Liam Livingstone had been yorked by Edwards, his 50th scalp of the season, in the second over of the day.
But despite his classy, attacking, fifty, Jones departed two overs after lunch when Ian Holland had him lbw – the Australian’s third wicket in figures of three for 48.
That left Lancashire needing 59 from the last three wickets, and Joshua Bohannon and Tom Bailey kept the score ticking to the second new ball.
But on 273, Kyle Abbott and Edwards reconvened and took three wickets between them to send the visitors down.
Abbott needed just three deliveries to find the outside of Bohannon’s edge, with Joe Weatherley taking a good catch at third slip.
Former West Indian Test fast bowler Edwards completed the innings, to seal Lancashire’s fate, by bowling Bailey with a fierce full ball before Saqib Mahmood was leg before two balls later.
The difficulties of the fast bowler friendly pitch, despite blue skies above, were proven by Hampshire’s upper order.
With a first innings deficit of 86, Hampshire lost Oli Soames to a fine head high catch by Vilas at second slip, before Joe Weatherley was caught behind – both off the bowling off Richard Gleeson.
That brought Jimmy Adams to the crease for his final innings in first-class cricket, with a warm applause from the crowd and away team players.
He rode his luck when he was dropped by Jones at second slip on two, before departing lbw for 13, and ending on 14,145 first-class runs.
Adams was given a guard of honour by his Hampshire teammates before hugging his father on his way to the dressing room for the last time as a professional batsman.
Bohannon then took three wickets to leave the hosts 88 for six.
The bowler had Sam Northeast lbw to the fifth ball after tea, James Vince caught behind and then, a ball later, Ian Holland bowled.
Liam Dawson and Lewis McManus added 43 for the seventh wicket to start a recovery, before the former was strangled down the legside.
Gareth Berg was caught at second slip but Kyle Abbott and McManus guided Hampshire to the close eight down.
Tom Bailey, the Lancashire fast bowler, celebrated his 60th Specsavers County Championship wicket of the season but late Hampshire wickets decreased the visitor’s hopes of avoiding relegation
Bailey used seam friendly conditions to his advantage to return figures of four for 57, and move above injured teammate Graham Onions to the top of the Division One wicket taking charts.
He took the wickets of Jimmy Adams, Sam Northeast, Gareth Berg and Fidel Edwards as Hampshire were bowled out for 187.
For Lancashire to definitely remain in the top tier they need to beat Hampshire, with full bonus points, along with Nottinghamshire losing and taking five or fewer bonus points from their home game with Somerset.
And they started perfectly by electing to bowl with an uncontested toss and claimed the full three bowling points but despite a promising 81-stand between Liam Livingstone and Keaton Jennings, Lancashire’s hunt for batting points is looking difficult.
Skipper Livingstone’s decision to field first paid dividends almost immediately when Joe Weatherley edged the sixth ball of the match to Rob Jones, but the second slip put down the chance.
Seam movement caused Hampshire issues throughout their innings, but the new ball was particularly potent on a dark coloured wicket which always seemed difficult to score on.
Weatherley failed to take his life when he attempted a cut shot off Gleeson close to his body which flicked behind to keeper Alex Davies, before Adams, in his penultimate professional innings, edged to third slip.
James Vince fluently reached 22, with a number of typically eye-catching shots, but fell leg before to Joshua Bohannon.
Opener Oli Soames produced a defensive masterclass and batted out the entire morning session for his first-class best of 29 before he chopped Saqib Mahmood onto his own stumps – giving the injury plagued 21-year-old his first scalp of the season.
At 101 for four, Hampshire were sitting in a position of promise, but lost 11 for three to crumble.
Liam Dawson played a shot-a-ball to reach 10 before edging Mahmood to first slip.
Ian Holland and Lewis McManus both departed in the same Richard Gleeson over, the former clean bowled by a ball which kept low and the latter caught low down by Keaton Jennings at first slip. Gleeson ended with impressive analysis of three for 34.
Among the post-lunch chaos, Northeast had ticked his way to 42, proving he had grasped the conditions in a 40-run stand with Berg.
But he departed before a deserved half-century when Bailey had him lbw before Berg quickly followed caught at third slip.
Kyle Abbott and Edwards added a useful 24 for the last wicket before the West Indian slogged a slow full toss from Bailey to Livingstone at mid-off.
In reply, Alex Davies and debutant Brooke Guest departed within the opening 10 overs, bowled by Edwards and Abbott respectively, but Jennings stoked the ball around with watchful elegance.
Jennings refused to take unnecessary risks, having been selected for England’s tour of Sri Lanka last week, and scored 48.
He added 83 with Livingstone but was bowled by Holland, before the Australian had night watchman Stephan Parry caught behind three balls later – leaving Lancashire 123 for four and well short of much needed and meaningful batting bonus points.