PRESTWICH missed out on the chance to win the inaugural Greater Manchester Premier League title after losing at home to rivals Egerton by 35 runs.
It was the visiting captain, Will Halton, who was left holding the trophy at the end of a dramatic final-day, when the top two went head-to-head.
But while home skipper Andy Bradley was left wondering what could have been after two contentious lbw decisions put paid to in-form batsmen Sam Holden and Ali Raza, he conceded the best team won.
"When you look at the table, it doesn't lie," he said.
"Egerton beat us home and away, and they finished top, while we beat third-placed Clifton twice and finished second, so you would have to say the top three positions are in the right order."
Bradley admits he was confident of getting a result after dismissing Egerton for 175.
The champions were wobbling at 18-3 and then 70-5 before a sixth-wicket partnership of 84 between Anthony Clegg (30) and Danny Partington (42) boosted the visitors' total.
Holden did the most damage with 4-45, while Mike Finan claimed 3-48.
Opener Ryan Stanbury (22) powered Prestwich along for the first seven overs of their reply before he was caught off the bowling of Egerton's leading wicket taker, Amal Dalugoda, who finished with 4-43.
Prestwich then quickly slumped from 31-0 to 32-3, Dalugoda taking their third wicket, the dangerous Holden, lbw for a duck.
Pro Marty Walters and Tom Gibson fell cheaply soon after and the home side were teetering on 56-5 before Raza arrived at the crease.
He was looking well set on 36 when given out lbw off the bowling of Halton, and Prestwich were again in trouble at 96-7 before Bradley joined teenage spin bowler Nathan Bailey for what turned out to be a courageous last stand.
The pair moved the score on to 133 before Bailey fell for 16, and while the skipper stuck around to make a battling 25 he was last man to fall with Prestwich stranded on 140.
"Even though Clegg and Partington batted well for Egerton, it did not feel like they had taken the game away from us," said Bradley.
"They probably got a few more runs than they should have because we dropped Partington twice, although they were both very difficult chances.
"But I felt we went into the break with the more positive vibe because once we had broken up their partnership we wrapped up their innings quite quickly.
"I don't want to get myself into trouble, but the two lbw decisions that did for Sam and Ali looked very poor, Ali's in particular as he was going great guns.
"Even the Egerton players said they were debatable.
"It sounds like sour grapes, but it is hard to take when you think the umpires could have cost us not just one match but the whole title.
"But there are other things you could put your finger on.
"We lost a game we should have won at Egerton then went on to lose two more games in succession. That was the real turning point.
"I am proud of the way the boys have performed, though, throughout the season.
"There is no doubt we have the ability to win the title, we just need that little bit more mental toughness. If we can work on that, I think we can go one step further next year."