GLOUCESTERSHIRE'S hopes of reaching the Clydesdale Bank 40 semi-finals are hanging by a thread after they suffered a four-wicket defeat to Lancashire at Old Trafford on Monday.
Alex Gidman's side are one point behind Middlesex and new Group A leaders Lancashire, who have two games in hand on all their rivals and are strong favourites to go through.
Gloucestershire have two games left, including the reverse fixture against Lancashire, to try and rescue their bid to progress, and would almost certainly have to win both to even have a chance of finishing as the best runners-up from the three groups.
Gloucestershire struggled on a difficult batting pitch before Ian Cockbain's late blast of 58 from 49 balls lifted them to 184-7, but the hosts reached their target with five balls to spare despite some late scares.
Cockbain, whose father played for Lanashire, said: "It was nice to get a few runs myself, but obviously disappointed to get beat.
"The pitch was bone dry and with all the rain around this season they've normally been quite green. It was tough for batting, but good for spinners.
"If we can finish off with a couple of wins, we'll see how it goes."
Plenty of Gloucestershire batsmen made starts with Dan Housego hitting 43 and Chris Dent scoring 27 on his comeback appearance, before Cockbain smashed four sixes in the last two overs.
Lancashire were cruising home on 163-3, but David Payne removed Karl Brown (60) and Ajmal Shahzad (10) with James Fuller trapping Paul Horton (46) lbw to give Gloucestershire faint hope, which proved to be short-lived.
• Three New Zealanders played key roles in Gloucestershire's comprehensive 90-run win on the Duckworth-Lewis method in the Netherlands.
Rob Nicol, in only his second appearance for the county, smashed seven fours and seven sixes in a brutal 133 off 113 balls and shared 102 with Hamish Marshall (47) for the first wicket in an imposing first innings total of 290-6.
James Fuller, showing great character after his battering by Scott Styris in the Friends Life t20 quarter-final three days earlier, took 6-35 as the Netherlands were bowled out for 146 in 22 overs having been set a revised target of 237 from 28 overs following a rain delay.