A win by a single shot would have been enough for Midlothian to have grabbed the second qualifying place at the expense of national favourites West Lothian thanks to a superior shot margin. But the home county slithered to a 116-113 defeat to Borders at Polton having been firmly in the driving seat with a handsome lead of 20 shots after 12 of the 21 ends played.
A bold 11-1 rally by Borders at end 13 cut the match margin in half and that was the signal for ‘game on’ and a battle all the way to the line.
“To be honest, we thought West Lothian were past the post but that’s bowls for you and the team and myself were gutted at hearing later that Stirling East had done us a massive favour,” said team boss Frank Gray.
“The final outcome is hard to take following our last-bowl defeat from E&L and last end defeat from West Lothian.”
Midlothian were punished 43-33 by Borders on the first seven-end phase but all seemed well when the home side roared into an eight-shot match lead with a 50-32 domination of the second phase.
But the catastrophic loss of seven shots by the Jim Gibson rink at end 16 hit Midlothian morale hard and the lift it gave Borders saw the visitors galvanised into tipping the match scales with a 41-31 return on the third phase.
It was a nerve-wracking climax however with the match tied at 106-106 after 19 ends before Borders broke Midlothian hearts with a 7-2 count on the penultimate end then restricted the home side to a 5-3 at the last.
Graeme Archer and David Peacock both posted wins for Midlothian while Jim Gibson and Craig Hodge both managed a peel. However, the rinks skipped by Colin McFarlane and Colin Walker suffered defeat.
Meanwhile, East Lothian, the defending national champions, lost 108-105 to Fife at Strathmiglo and managed to win only once in their seven matches of the campaign.
The final East section table reads: Edinburgh & Leith 12 (+87), West Lothian 10 (+91), Midlothian 8 (+107), West Fife 8 (+35), Borders 6 (-43), Stirling East 4 (-85), Fife 4 (-111), East Lothian 2 (-81).