Carl Hopkinson missed out on a trip to Lord's last season.

But, on a highly-charged night of drama at the County Ground, the blossoming Sussex batsman dragged his team over the finishing line and into the C&G Trophy final in a blaze of glory.

Coming in with his team struggling at 120-4, chasing 255, and with spin veterans Shane Warne and Shaun Udal holding court, he combined with Michael Yardy to steady the ship.

Then they set up a run-a-ball target for the last ten overs before, when Yardy was bowled by Billy Taylor as the required rate started to creep up again, Robin Martin-Jenkins came in to hit 21 of 11 balls and spare us the agony of a last-over nailbiter.

Hopkinson, like many of his colleagues, graduated from the local club scene. He played for Horsham and might have been at headquarters for the national club final last season had county commitments allowed.

He said: "I missed that one because we had one-day games but I'm looking forward to this one in front of a capacity crowd. You can't go wrong.

"I was loving the challenge, loving the crowd. They were amazing and I loved every minute of it."

He insisted: "I never panicked.

"The odds were a little bit against us with Warne and Udal bowling so well. I always had a target in mind of 180 with ten overs to go but I think we were a bit ahead of that.

"I knew the areas where I wanted to score off Warne. If it came in there I was going to go for it no matter what and it came off."

It was a night for steady nerves and heroic contributions and Sussex got them after an awful start.

After winning the toss and getting off to a flyer, Hampshire lost their last five wickets for three runs to round off an innings which was in gradual decline from the moment Sean Ervine fell for a 45, off just 35 balls, in the the 15th over.

The visitors reached 100 in the 13th over but did not pass 200 until the 40th.

Concern among home fans turned to jubilation when James Kirtley completed his five-for with a triple-wicket maiden in the 49th over, clean-bowling Warne, Udal and James Tomlinson.

Hampshire had looked they were going to rattle up a monster score when Ervine and Michael Carberry were adding 106 in 12 overs for the second wicket.

But Murray Goodwin picked up Ervine low down at square leg off a relieved Yasir Arafat, whose 28 balls to that point had cost 41.

Then Mushtaq Ahmed led the brake-applying mission, his final fig-ures made all the more remarkable given he was hit for three fours by Carberry in his first over.

The under-rated Yardy varied pace, length and flight to keep it tight at the other end.

And, bit by bit, Hampshire's seemingly rock-solid platform was chiselled away from under them.

Luke Wright flung himself to his left in a deep gully position to pouch an attempted cut by Carberry, whose 71 came off 68 balls and featured nine fours and two sixes.

And Hopkinson followed a routine claim of Dominic Thornely's leading edge off Mushtaq by brilliantly clutching Greg Lamb's flashing drive twohanded above his head backward of point.

Sussex still had work to do but Matt Prior and Richard Montgomerie were positive from the start and put on 95 in 16 overs for the first wicket.

Prior had a bit of luck when he edged Taylor for four between slip and the keeper and when he was caught at mid-on off a no-ball.

Sussex had made 87-0 when fielding restrictions were eased at the end of the 15th over.

At which point, Warne and Udal entered the fray.

Udal who got the breakthrough with his first ball as Prior looked to cut a wide one and got a thin edge to the keeper. Then came a nine-over sequence which brought just nine runs and three wickets.

Warne had Chris Adams caught in the deep sweeping, Udal pinned Goodwin right in front and Montgomerie's steady innings was ended by Thornely's one-handed pick up and instant throw from cover, though it took careful scrutiny of the replays to decide he had been run out.

Hopkinson and Yardy, though, gradually wrestled back command, slowly at first as they added 95 in 19 overs for the fifth wicket.

Nerves were still on edge when Sussex needed 33 off the last four overs. But Hove fans have learnt to have faith. Way back when this campaign started, Surrey were 189-2 after 30 overs in the first game of this campaign but Sussex still won.

It has been a long route since then from London SE11 to NW8 but Sussex are there now.