After an attritional three days, the ACES seized control in the afternoon session on Day Four.
It was another delayed start, with showers sweeping across the ground through the morning. When play eventually resumed, the bowling group wrapped up the Northern Districts second innings for 173.
All six ACES bowlers picked up wickets, with Will Somerville (3-41) playing a key role in keeping the visitors lead to 195.
Martin Guptill (31) and George Worker (29) made the most of the hard new ball, hitting seven boundaries in the first eight overs. The pair added 59 in good time for the first wicket.
ND continued to challenge the ACES top order as the ball continued to move around after tea. Glenn Phillips (41) and then Mark Chapman battled on as the grey clouds darkened a couple of shades.
With 32 runs to win, the light-meter came out and the players went from the field only to return three minutes later. On return, Chapman hit two boundaries to go through to his 13th First-Class fifty.
With the scores level, bad light stopped play for second time. Chapman and Jamieson, new to the crease, waited in the middle alongside the umpires for the light to improve.
Eventually, the ND players would be called back to the field of play and two balls later Chapman and Jamieson scampered through for the winning single.
Earlier in the match, Ross ter Braak made inroads on Day One to vindicate his skipper’s decision to bowl first. Somerville was an ever-present threat on a back-and-forth first day as the ACES bowled the visitors out for 230.
For ND, Mitchell Santner and Brett Randell both made fighting half-centuries.
Worker and Guptill went through the remaining 15 overs unscathed to leave the ACES in a strong position heading into Day Two. Grey skies greeted the players in the morning and Northern Districts made the most of favourable bowling conditions.
Guptill (63) lost five partners as Tim Southee (5-35) reduced the ACES to 55/5. When Guptill’s patient 141-ball stay came to an end, Sean Solia was joined by Kyle Jamieson. The pair put on 75 for the 7th wicket to edge closer to NDs first innings total.
All out for 208, the ACES would give up a 22-run lead with Solia the last man out for 72. All was not lost with ter Braak and Solia (2) reducing ND to 68/3 at stumps on Day Two.
Rain would delay play on Day Three, but when play would resume, the ACES would dominate the 31 overs of play. Four wickets would fall with Jamieson and Somerville delivering some beautiful deliveries; ND would lead by 177 with three wickets in hand, setting up an intriguing final day.