Middlesex’s latest stay in Division One of the LV= Insurance County Championship is over, although they at least went down with a fight on a dramatic final day at Trent Bridge.

In a match they ultimately had to win following Kent’s draw against Lancashire to avoid joining Northamptonshire in Division Two next season, there had looked to be only one outcome as skipper Toby Roland-Jones set Nottingham a target of just 207 in a generous 58 overs.

But on a dry, turning pitch on a beautifully sunny last afternoon, spinners Jayant Yadav, Josh De Caires and Sam Robson - who finished with a career-best 4-46 with his leg spin - gave the home side a real scare before Matt Montgomery (34 not out) held the tail together to drag Nottinghamshire across the line at eight down, with 16 balls to spare.

Fittingly, it was number 10 Jake Ball - in his final appearance for Nottinghamshire - who swept Robson for the winning boundary.

Earlier, as Nottinghamshire set fields that allowed Middlesex to set the game up, Robson hit an 109-ball unbeaten 105 that contained only three fours, and De Caires 49 from 47 as the two shared an 83-run sixth-wicket partnership before the declaration came, with Roland-Jones needing to take a gamble if his bowlers were to have any chance of taking 10 wickets on a pitch that, while taking spin, was still essentially a good surface for batting.

Hutton’s 2-38 had confirmed him as the season’s leading wicket-taker across both divisions on 62 and as Ben Slater added a 49 to his first-innings 140 Nottinghamshire looked to be cruising on 133-2.

There had been only sporadic glimmers of hope for Middlesex. Haseeb Hameed, without a hundred this year after four in 2022, pulled Tom Helm straight to square leg in the 16th over. Ten overs later, John Simpson executed a sharp stumping to enable De Caires to end Steven Mullaney’s progress at 30 from 34 balls.

But then wickets came in consecutive overs twice as the turning ball suddenly became a potent weapon.

Joe Clarke was bowled by off-spinner Yadav for 22 in the 31st, before Slater was leg before to Robson in the 32nd.

Tom Moores was caught at deep midwicket on the slog-sweep off Robson in the 36th and Lyndon James leg before on the back foot to Yadav in the 37th, leaving Nottinghamshire 152-6, still 55 short of the target.

And the odds looked to be tipping firmly in Middlesex’s favour as Robson bowled Calvin Harrison in the 40th, giving Robson career-best figures with the ball as a bonus.

But Montgomery played the spinners well and Hutton brought a calm authority to proceedings, the pair adding 45 for the seventh wicket.

There was still for one more scare as Hutton, with just five needed, swiped at Robson to be caught behind.

But Ball kept his nerve to get the job done, punching the air as his sweep off Robson beat the infield, achieving a fourth win of the season and a sixth-place finish for Nottinghamshire, who were promoted with Middlesex as Division Two champions last year.

At the start of the day, with just one slip in place as Ball bowled the opening delivery with a ball just three overs old, it was clear that Nottinghamshire were happy to let Middlesex progress at their own pace towards the declaration they had in mind. Quite soon there were no slips and ultimately nine Nottinghamshire players stationed by the boundary rope.

The wonder was that Middlesex managed to lose five wickets in taking their total to 177 in the 29 overs up to lunch, although Stevie Eskinazi’s freakish demise capped an unfortunate match for the South African-born player.

His firm drive towards mid-on hit Robson on the foot at the non-striker’s end and rolled gently towards Mullaney, the bowler, who picked up the ball and lobbed it to wicketkeeper Tom Moores with Eskinazi, who had copped one on the helmet on day one, hopelessly stranded.

Either side of this moment of comedy - dark comedy from a Middlesex point of view - Mark Stoneman picked out Lyndon James at deep mid-wicket and Max Holden fell to an excellent catch by Ball at third man as Hutton extended his wickets tally for the season to 62.

Dane Paterson raised his own total to 50 - for the third consecutive season - by having Ryan Higgins caught behind off a thin edge and Mullaney removed Simpson via a much thicker edge, a steepler that Moores had to run to backward point to take.

A 47-ball 49 by De Caires either side of lunch helped things along, with the young off-spinner lofting Ball into the Fox Road stand beyond square leg before he was caught at deep extra flinging the bat.

It gave Ball his final wicket as a Nottinghamshire player - and the first from the Stuart Broad End, as the pavilion end here will henceforth be known following a lunchtime announcement in the presence of the retired England pace bowler.

Moments later, Robson completed his third hundred of the season, Middlesex declared, mindful mostly of how many overs their bowlers might need to have any chance of taking 10 wickets, and Ball led his team-mates off the field for the last time.  Another county will surely find room for him next season.

Roland-Jones said: “We knew coming into this game that we had to try to force a result and coming into today we had a pretty clear picture. We asked the guys to give it everything and to truly believe that every result was possible and I think that showed on the pitch in the way we have hung in when they were one down for 100-odd, knowing that once we got one we could start to make things tricky for them on a turning pitch.

“We took it right down to the wire but it just wasn’t to be unfortunately. But I’m definitely proud of the guys today, but we will look back over the season and say that on other occasions in close games where we have been outwrestled and not able to compete as we have done over the four days here.

“The frustration is that on a wearing wicket on the last day we were in a good position, but I think fundamentally as a group over the course of a 14-game season we have not found our true form and found ourselves in a situation with which you can’t really argue.”

Head coach Richard Johnson added: “We had a figure in mind that we were comfortable defending and that would leave ourselves enough time to get 10 wickets. That worked out perfectly, I felt Sam Robson anchored the innings beautifully while everyone played around him and that set up the game for our bowlers to put them as much under pressure as they could.

“When we had them seven down I felt there was a real opportunity but their guys dug in well at the end. We've talked all year about how much harder playing cricket is in the First Division compared with the Second Division. We couldn’t cope with that at the start and it has taken up until these last three or four games to start to perform and put our best foot forward.

“It has come too late but what it means is that we can start next season with positivity about how we approach our cricket. We know we can play First Division cricket but we have to build a team now that not only can we compete in Second Division cricket but when we come back up we can compete and push these boys.

“In First Division cricket you have to be switched on from the start and our total of just two batting points all season before this game shows clearly where we have let ourselves down.

“We are gutted and disappointed with the way we have been relegated this year. We know we are a better side than that but we have to show it consistently week in, week out.”

*copy from Jon Culley/Reporters Network