Big-hitters Lancashire and unfancied Northamptonshire head the pack after an intriguing first stage of the 2009 Twenty20 Cup.
Lancashire's domination of the North division, along with the abject performance of Nottinghamshire, left an enthralling scrap for the remaining two quarter-final places.
A place in the next round is guaranteed for teams finishing first and second, while only the two best third-placed teams will go through and have a chance to advance to the international Twenty20 Champions League.
Of additional interest to the clubs is the qualification for next season's inaugural P20 - the English rival to India's IPL.
All county sides will compete in the tournament that will replace the Twenty20 Cup, but only those finishing in the top three of each group will be involved in the top division of nine teams.
Yorkshire and Leicestershire secured convincing victories in the final round of the first stage to leave themselves in command of second and third places respectively, pushing Derbyshire and Durham into the fourth and fifth places.
Northamptonshire's Midlands/Wales/West Division has seen a three-way battle for second and third places, after Gloucestershire and Glamorgan failed to get going.
Somerset and Worcestershire have earned a two-point lead over fourth-placed Warwickshire after some sterling individual performances.
South African Zander de Bruyn has been arguably the batsman of the tournament, hitting more 50s for Somerset than anyone else in the tournament, while scoring the second-most runs.
This left the South division to provide the tournament's biggest surprise in the shape of last season's champions and online betting odds Middlesex, who failed to win a single game despite retaining the stars of 2008.
Darren Stevens, who tops the batting averages with a not out-assisted 141, and Martin van Jaarsveld with an average of 58 helped Kent to third, while Sussex - who have played three games more than Surrey and Middlesex – have all-rounders Dwayne Smith and Michael Yardy to thank for their lofty position.
Robert Key's Kent will be disappointed to be three points behind leaders Sussex, and one behind a Hampshire side containing the evergreen duo of Nic Pothas and Dominic Cork, after confusion in their sixth game.
Sussex had set Kent 132 to win but, with half of Hove's floodlights not working, the away side were never likely to finish all 20 overs before darkness fell.
Instead, openers Joe Denly and Darren Stevens were able to keep an eye on the D/L par score and cruise to an expected victory.
However the pair walked a fine tightrope and once they fell behind the required score for the first time, Sussex skipper Yardy brought on his quick bowlers to force the umpires into calling the game off due to dangerous light, giving the home side a cheeky two points.