Northants pop the Champagne after convincing win over Durham

Brett Hutton of Northamptonshire is applauded by his team-mates Getty Images

Northamptonshire 217 (Rossington 82, Rushworth 5-68) and 315 (Proctor 86*, Levi 60, Rossington 52) beat Durham 131 (Sanderson 6-54) and 232 (Eckersley 67*, Hutton 5-59) by 169 runs

Long after thundering out their team song and clinking rare glasses of champagne, the Northamptonshire players unwound on the Wantage Road outfield and reflected on a job well done. Some basked bare-chested, others wore their county caps and lay full stretch on the grass. Big Richard Levi, in stripy flip-flops, perched on a blue cool-box, green empties blending in with the turf.

"Champagne," mused captain Adam Rossington from a corner of the dressing room an hour or so earlier. "Don't know where that came from. There are too many northerners in here for champagne."

The origin of the tipple may have been a mystery, but the reason corks popped was quite clear. Northamptonshire are all but promoted to the first division. Victory over Durham less than half-an-hour into the final day left them only four points short of certain elevation next week.

Success represents a personal triumph for Rossington, who took over from Alex Wakely in early June. Wakely had been unhappy with his form for a while and Rossington was the obvious replacement. Northants are unbeaten in eight Championship games since, a period incorporating five wins and a very commendable draw against Lancashire, the runaway leaders.

"We were never a million miles from being where we wanted," Rossington said. "Alex had done it for a while and done a brilliant job. It was just the key moments we were losing, dropping catches and then those players going on to hurt us. Really, it has been a case of carrying on the work from beforehand, but seizing those crucial moments."

Rossington is aware that Northants have struggled during their rare appearances in the top flight. All three seasons have ended in relegation. He himself arrived on loan from Middlesex during the most recent, 2014, when their points tally of 79 was the joint-lowest since the Championship became a split-division competition. For the first time in 76 years they failed to record a single win.

One reason is obvious. They lost Mike Hussey and Phil Jaques from 2013, a combined tally of more than 3,000 runs. Under the strain of poor results, the dressing room fractured with Graeme Swann suggesting the club had lost its soul (he left for Nottinghamshire after that campaign) while Kepler Wessels, the coach, claimed that local players were not taking their opportunities.

David Ripley, the head coach, is steeped in the county and an altogether different character to the authoritarian Wessels. Crucially, perhaps, two teams from ten rather than nine will go down in 2020 and if the squad now has a journeyman look - with no overseas player yet signed - Rossington is understandably quick to highlight their credentials.

Ben Sanderson and Brett Hutton have taken almost 100 wickets between them this summer and both average under 20. Rossington and Ricardo Vasconcelos, 21, have batting means above 45. "We know it will be tough," Rossington said, "but we have players who have been in division one and some hungry lads who have not seen it before but want to make an impact and be competitive.

"Our bowlers can definitely be successful. They are proven. Ben has taken 50 wickets three seasons out of four, Brett has taken wickets for Nottinghamshire in that division and done a job. They complement each other terrifically. Gareth [Berg] has just come from the first division. Teams will have good players, but we've also got good players ourselves."

Besides which, Rossington insists that the second division is underestimated. "We have played against attacks this season that might have two international bowlers," he said. "It isn't a poor division at all. You see us second and Gloucestershire third, but look at some of those below. Middlesex and Sussex have international bowlers in their line-ups, so we can't be bad."

They made short shrift of Durham on Thursday morning. Hutton and Sanderson, fittingly, claimed a wicket apiece, with Ned Eckersley left unbeaten on 67. James Franklin, the Durham head coach, acknowledged on Wednesday that his side was returning for the last rites, their own hopes of promotion dashed. Defeat in their first four matches left too much ground to retrieve.

"Our batting here was pretty average," Franklin admitted. "We will spend another year in Division Two, which is disappointing. We have had a really good run in the Championship in the last eight games and made some strong progress, but we have come to the crunch and not been able to pitch up in a pressurised situation."

Durham still carry influence as they entertain Glamorgan next week. The most likely outcome is that Northants and Gloucestershire will finish second and third - nine points will ensure the latter's promotion - and Dean Cosker as an ECB cricket liaison officer will be on hand to ensure there is no contrivance when those two counties meet at Bristol.

Despite gaining the maximum 24 points with a commanding 291-run win over Leicestershire, Glamorgan will need to beat Durham by a similar margin and hope that Gloucestershire or Northants drop sufficient points.

"Even though three go up, it is a big incentive to finish second," Rossington said. "Lancashire are a good side and rightly won the division. We want to be next to them, we are adamant about that, and we will be fighting down at Bristol. You don't want to put in a poor performance and have that lingering over you all winter. We want to enjoy our time off."

Durham 4th innings Partnerships

1st16AZ LeesCT Steel
2nd2AJ RobsonCT Steel
3rd1BJ WatlingCT Steel
4th66BJ WatlingJTA Burnham
5th11JTA BurnhamS Steel
6th10EJH EckersleyJTA Burnham
7th28EJH EckersleyBA Raine
8th53EJH EckersleyBA Carse
9th34EJH EckersleyMET Salisbury
10th11C RushworthEJH Eckersley