The scrap to avoid relegation from division one of the Braintree Table Tennis League this season is likely to be between promoted Black Notley B and Rayne C, promoted the previous year and bottom of division one last season but kept up after Rayne dropped a team.
And how tight that might be was illustrated in the fixture that brought the two together in week three of the season.
Five sets went to five games as the teams took five points each.
Patrice Elonge, who turned out only five times last season but has played in every match this time, was Notley’s mainstay.
He took his three singles and almost added another as he and Dave Parker were beaten 11-9 in the fifth game in the doubles.
Gordon Fairchild won the other two for Notley while Dave Miller won twice for Rayne.
A more unexpected draw was that between Netts’ A and C teams.
Hannah Pitt repeated last season’s excellent win over 2017 men’s singles finalist Andy Holmes, who came close to conceding a second to Nikki Davison in one of those rare sets where all five games were decided by two points. Holmes got there in the end 9-11, 12-14, 12-10, 13-11, 11-9.
Davison and James Mullane both won twice for the C team.
Leaders Liberal A clocked up their third 10-0 win, this time over Notley A.
It was not always going to be that straightforward as Brandon Crouchman lost twice to Victor Chan last season. Not this time, though.
Maria Boulton was in excellent form for Netts B against Rayne A, where she beat both Adam Buxton and Alan Burgess.
Lee McHugh ensured she did not make it a hat-trick and Rayne ended up 8-2 winners.
That was also the score when Liberal B beat Rayne B, with Adrian Pitt unbeaten.
After two 10-0 wins, division two leaders Liberal C were brought down to earth when they were held to a draw by Notley D.
They were handicapped by having only two players and neither Jon Fieldsend nor Garry Fryatt could beat Sean Clift.
Felsted RBL A are now only two points behind Liberal after their 8-2 win over Rayne E.
Dave Marsh won the two for Rayne and came desperately close to making it three, losing out to Jarek Pietraszuk only at 14-12 in the fifth.
After two 7-3 defeats, promoted Notley E scored their first win of the season, a creditable one over a strong Rayne D side.
Steve Noble was undefeated for Notley while Stewart Ireland and Takunda Nerutanga both won two.
The other promoted team, Felsted B, fared less well, going down 8-2 to Nomads.
Two teams who have played only two matches lead division three.
Notley G followed their initial 9-1 win over Netts F by beating Rayne I 10-0 while Rayne F, 10-0 winners in their first match, beat Notley H 8-2.
Fourteen-year-old Jonny Evans scored Notley H’s two wins while Matt Brooks and Jim Davy made it six out of six in Notley G’s win.
Notley F and Netts E, who have played three times, are both one point behind after 8-2 wins over Rayne H and Netts F respectively.
Mel Cooch was unbeaten for Notley F and Tony Smith for Netts E.Evans’ fellow junior Elliot Game was unbeaten as Notley I beat Rayne G