Sussex’s hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages of the Royal London One-Day Cup took a massive blow as they went down in a rain-affected match at home to Middlesex.
Toby Roland-Jones took 4-42 to restrict Sussex to 248-9 having been 121-1 at one stage with Chris Nash top scoring on 65.
Middlesex were 81-1 after 18 overs when the rain started and with no further play possible they won by 21 runs on the Duckworth/Lewis method.
The result means Sussex slip two places to eighth in group B and they will now need to win their three remaining games – starting at Somerset on Sunday - to stand any chance of reaching the quarter-finals.
Sussex will be kicking themselves for failing to set a bigger total after making an excellent start to their innings having won the toss.
Luke Wright hit Tim Murtagh for three consecutive fours before being on the end of a debatable lbw decision having scored 14.
Chris Nash then dominated a partnership of 102 with Ed Joyce for the second wicket to put Sussex in a strong position.
Nash launched Roland-Jones and Dawid Malan for big sixes as he reached only his second 50 in 14 innings from 54 balls.
He showed signs he was getting back to his best by despatching Neil Dexter for another maximum over midwicket but was caught on the boundary the very next ball trying to repeat the feat having made 65.
Sussex never really recovered from Nash’s departure as they Sussex lost eight wickets for 102 runs in the next 24.4 overs.
Joyce followed without the score being added to as he was bowled for 37 by Ollie Rayner trying to cut a ball that was too straight.
Matt Mach and Craig Cachopa kept the scoreboard ticking over nicely by adding 52 together in 57 balls but when Cachopa fell for 24 – nicking Malan to the keeper – the collapse was alarming.
Ben Brown was run out for nine and Yasir Arafat was unable to repeat his heroics of the victory over Durham at Hove as he was bowled by Roland-Jones for two.
Machan was superbly caught by Rayner for 40 and only a spirited 33 from Steffan Piolet – on his 26th birthday – enabled Sussex to limp to 248-9 from their 50 overs. That never looked like being enough and with the forecast predicting rain was on the way Sussex knew they had to take early wickets to stand a chance due to the way the Duckworth/Lewis method is weighted.
Middlesex were also aware of that fact and were able to play cautiously with Chris Rogers and Malan putting on 42 in the ten over powerplay with no alarms.
Piolet raised Sussex’s hopes when he found the edge of Malan’s bat to send him on his way for 33 just before the rain began.
Will Beer put down a tough low chance to get rid of Paul Stirling from the last ball that was bowled before the covers went on but ultimately it would not have made any difference.