LV County Championship - Division One
Riverside - Day Four
Durham 473-4 dec (M J Di Venuto 254 no, W R Smith 101, D M Benkenstein 69) & 80-1 v Sussex 245 (M H Yardy 97, C D Thorp 5-86) & 304 (L J Wright 118 no, C D Nash 55)
Durham (21pts) beat Sussex (2pts) by 9 wkts
Steve Harmison defied the pain of badly-blistered feet to take the last three Sussex wickets as Championship leaders Durham eased to a nine-wicket win over Sussex at Chester-le-Street.
The only real resistance Durham faced came from Luke Wright, who was unbeaten on 118, as the visitors were dismissed for 304.
Harmison came on for the 13th over of the day after only one wicket had been taken and after striking in his second over he bowled the last two batsmen with successive balls in his seventh.
After bowling six wicketless overs and conceding 41 runs before limping off on Sunday evening, Harmison finished with three for 68 to take his tally of first-class wickets this season to 53.
That left Durham needing just 77 to win. Michael Di Venuto followed his unbeaten 254 in the first innings with 39 not out, reaching 1,000 first-class runs for the season on 27.
Durham knocked off the runs in 18.4 overs, losing Mark Stoneman for 18 with the total on 49 when he pushed forward and edged off-spinner Rayner to slip. Skipper Will Smith was unbeaten on 21.
It was unbeaten Durham's sixth win of the season, which was enough to win the title last year. Sussex - who preceded Durham as champions in 2007 - took just two points from the match to increase their relegation fears.
Durham are closing in on their sixth Championship win of the season - and for once they are not relying on Steve Harmison for wickets.
But the champions missed the England paceman in the final hour as a possible three-day victory slipped away during an unbroken stand of 93 between Luke Wright and Andrew Hodd.
Harmison was nursing a badly-blistered big toe as he bowled in three and four-over spells and finally left the field six overs before the close.
With Callum Thorp taking his first five-wicket haul of the season, Sussex followed on 228 behind and the Australian picked up two more as they closed on 208 for five.
The visitors crumbled from their overnight 119 for one to 245 all out, then again made a decent start in the second innings before slipping from 71 for one to 115 for five.
A three-day defeat was still possible but Wright fearlessly cut and pulled his way to a 58-ball half-century in surviving the final 20 overs with Hodd.
Michael Di Venuto hit a career-best 254 not out for Durham before an interruption for bad light prompted a declaration on 473 for four.
On a day when the start was delayed by rain until 12.20pm, the sun came out after an early tea and Sussex reached 119 for one in 38 overs, skipper Mike Yardy continuing his good form with 54 not out.
Although Steve Harmison bowled with good pace and reasonable accuracy, he was not helped by the placid pitch.
He rested after seven overs but came back for five more at the end, and in trying to evade a ball which was not particularly short, Ed Joyce was struck on the right elbow and retired hurt on 32.
Di Venuto's score was the second highest for Durham in first-class cricket. It was one more than Mike Hussey made on his debut at Leicester in 2005, and 19 short of Martin Love's 273 against Hampshire at Riverside in 2003.
The Tasmanian's previous best was 230 for Derbyshire against Northamptonshire at Derby in 2002.
The only chance he gave was on 180, when Ollie Rayner dropped a sharp chance at first slip off Luke Wright.
Michael Di Venuto and Will Smith struck centuries as Durham dominated the opening day against Sussex.
The Division One leaders reached stumps at 264-2 with Di Venuto unbeaten on 141, his fourth Championship hundred of the season.
After Sussex paceman Yasir Arafat (1-70) removed Michael Stoneman (5) with the new ball, Di Venuto and Smith shared a second-wicket stand of 231.
Number three Smith reached his seventh first-class century late in the evening session before being bowled shortly afterwards by Corey Collymore (1-44) for 101.
The Durham skipper faced 292 balls and hit 12 fours to leave his side in a strong position.
Di Venuto, who struck 21 fours from 234 deliveries, stood firm through to the close and will resume on day two in the company of Gordon Muchall (1no).