Chapter after chapter of hard luck stories unfolded at Cobham Oval today, though George Worker and Tim Weston could at least reflect on a happy ending as Central Stags avoided the Men's One-Day wooden spoon with a thrilling five-run win over Northern Knights in Whangarei.
Worker experienced the first indignity when, as non-striker, he was run out following a mix up with Peter Ingram on the opening ball of Central's ultimately defendable 246 for six.
Weston's woes occurred at the opposite end of an innings he held together when he suffered the anguish of being stranded on 99 -- just a single short of his maiden one-day ton.
But the duo's disappointment was eclipsed by former New Zealand opener BJ Watling whose unbeaten 113 for Northern Districts was unable to overhaul a target that appeared attainable as he added 150 for the sixth wicket with Peter McGlashan.
The wicketkeeper's dismissal for 69 with four deliveries remaining swung the match in Central's favour and cast 18-year-old quick Adam Milne as one of their bowling saviours as Northern Districts were restricted to 241 for seven.
Watling and McGlashan effected an admirable salvage job after Northern had slumped to 87 for five after 23 overs but ominously the asking rate was never comfortable given they were unable to reach the ropes with regularity.
Requiring 16 from the final two overs, former New Zealand pace bowler Michael Mason emerged as Central District's first hero when he conceded just three runs, a dramatic improvement after the veteran's three previous overs cost 22.
Watling, who compiled his sixth one-day hundred from 131 balls, scrambled three from Milne's first delivery but the 18-year-old speedster - a New Zealand debutant in last month's Twenty20 series against Pakistan - then made the key breakthrough when McGlashan, who made a controlled 69 from 91 was gloved by counterpart Kruger van Wyk.
Graham Aldridge was summarily sacrificed, run out when attempting an ambitious two, leaving Watling and Bradley Scott to conjure up eight from the last two balls - they managed a single apiece.
Watling, who stroked seven boundaries and a six during his ultimately pedestrian 145-ball knock, trudged disconsolately from the middle though at least had the consolation of Northern cementing the final semifinal berth after Wellington were humbled by Auckland at the Basin Reserve.
Milne also responded superbly with the new ball - he had the remarkable analysis of 2-4 from his opening five over burst and although he was carted for 20 off two in a brief third spell he held his nerve when it counted.
He finished with 3-37; Mason's 1-54 masked the relevance of his final over.
Earlier Weston was cursed to miss a significant career milestone when he and Doug Bracewell could not quite orchestrate his deserved century.
Weston, whose previous highest score was an unbeaten 77, replaced Ingram (64) in the 20th over and struck 10 boundaries and a six during an almost perfectly timed contribution from 102 balls.