ARBROATH skipper Marc Petrie hailed the performance of Elton Willemse after he demolished Angus rivals Forfarshire to keep the club on course to regain the Eastern Premiership champions mantle.
With second-placed Grange also enjoying a clinical victory over holders Aberdeenshire, the stage is set for an intriguing final chapter of the campaign on Saturday.
If Arbroath slip up against an improving Watsonians outfit at Myreside, it would allow Grange to earn the glory – as long as they fend off the challenge of neighbours Heriots at Raeburn Place.
Willemse, who has had a solid first season at Lochlands since switching from Stoneywood-Dyce, snapped up seven cheap wickets to slap down the Broughty Ferry brigade.
An admiring Petrie declared: “Elton has been consistent with the ball all summer, chipping in with two or three wickets on a regular basis. On this occasion he was outstanding.
“To bowl a 13-over spell the way he did was a fantastic effort.
“Every delivery was asking questions of the batsmen, forcing them into false shots – and he was backed up brilliantly by the fielders.
“There were some special catches taken in what was our best fielding display of the season.
“In the first innings we did well to reach 199 on a very difficult wicket after losing the toss.
“Calvin Burnett batted excellently for an important unbeaten half century, supported well by Elton and Blair Carnegie.
“The team spirit and togetherness we have at the moment gets us through some difficult times in matches and, as a captain, it’s delightful to see and to be a part of.
“We must now continue in the same vein next weekend, both against Watsonians and in the Scottish Cup final at Stirling against Grange.”
Forfarshire’s Michael Leask and ex-Arbroath man Matty Parker had built strong foundations for the required 200 with an impressive half-century partnership.
But when the scalps of Leask, Graeme Beghin and Rory Johnston were claimed in quick succession by Willemse, the contest was well and truly swinging in the home side’s direction.
They gained more momentum as the lethal Willemse removed Parker with the total on 99.
There was no way back for Shire and they limped to 137 all out.
Earlier, Scott Cameron had made an early breakthrough for the visitors as he uprooted the leg stump of Jack Waller.
Beghin was next to strike, prompting Brendon Ford to lob a drive into the hands of Liam Sweeney at mid-off with the tally on 20 in the eighth over.
Arbroath’s jitters continued when Scott removed dangerman Fraser Burnett, who was trapped in front nine runs later.
The next home setback came as Harris Carnegie edged Andrew Wallace to Leask as slip.
Willemse and Calvin Burnett steadied the ship for Arbroath with a stand of 46 before the latter was run out for 45.
He was left stranded when a brilliant pick-up and throw by Umair Mohammed flew straight into the gloves of Craig Wallace above the bails.
Even worse was to come for the hosts, Petrie perishing immediately afterwards with Leask pouching a simple return catch.
The younger of the Burnetts kept up the battle after the departure of Willemse (45), bringing up his half century with a huge six on his way to a fine unbeaten 62.
Meanwhile at Raeburn Place, Grange made light work of reaching their target of 188 – thanks mainly to a top-notch century by Ryan Flannigan.
Ewan Chalmers smashed 131 not out to inspire Sonians to a remarkable 245-run victory over Stoneywood-Dyce at Myreside.
There were also comfortable wins for Carlton at the expense of Falkland and Heriot’s over RH Corstorphine.