Somerset were held to a draw on the final day at Durham, allowing Nottinghamshire to snatch the LV County Championship from their grasp.
Set a target of 181 in 17 overs, the Cidermen lost three early wickets before reaching 48-3 when a stalemate was agreed.
Craig Kieswetter (3) fell to Durham's ex-Somerset spinner Ian Blackwell (2-19) in the fourth over and, when Marcus Trescothick (21) and Peter Trego (2) then fell in quick succession, Jos Buttler (6no) and Nick Compton (12no) shut up shop.
That left Nottinghamshire needing to secure a sixth bonus points in their match against Lancashire at Old Trafford to claim the title, a feat they achieved with 13.3 overs remaining when Shivnarine Chanderpaul edged to slip off Andre Adams.
Durham had earlier advanced their second innings from an overnight position of 171-2 to 320 all out in the evening session.
Michael Di Venuto led the way with his third century of the season before being out for 129, one of seamer Trego's victims in a haul of 4-61.
Somerset, whose wait for a maiden title continues for another year, have the chance to redeem themselves at Lord's on Saturday when they take on Warwickshire in the final of the Clydesdale Bank 40.
Somerset are well placed to claim their maiden LV County Championship title after James Hildreth's seventh century of the season saw them to maximum bonus points on day three against Durham.
Resuming on the third morning at Chester-le-Street on 226-4 in reply to Durham's 286, Hildreth guided his side past the 400 mark - and the eighth bonus point - before tea.
The Milton Keynes-born right-hander hit 105 from 189 deliveries, including 13 fours, and was given solid support from Peter Trego (69), Jos Buttler (39) and Alfonso Thomas (26).
Durham seamer Ben Harmison (4-94) and debutant Ruel Braithwaite (3-93) shared seven wickets as Somerset, whose progress was briefly stalled by two short rain breaks during the afternoon, were eventually all out for 426, a lead of 140.
But the hosts hit back in the evening session, opening batsman Michael Di Venuto compiling an unbeaten 84 to pass 1,000 Championship runs for the summer and power Durham to 171-2 in their second innings at stumps, an overall advantage of 31.
With Nottinghamshire again frustrated by the weather in their game against Lancashire at Old Trafford, Somerset - who started the last round of matches two points behind - are almost certain to be crowned champions if they can force victory.
The final day, however, will finish 45 minutes earlier than usual to allow Somerset to catch a flight to London, giving them as much time as possible to prepare for Saturday's Clydesdale Bank 40 final against Warwickshire at Lord's.
The teams have played an extra four overs on each of the first three days to make the Cidermen's early exit possible.
Somerset seized the initiative in the LV County Championship title race by securing four bonus points on day two against Durham at Chester-le-Street.
The Cidermen bowled out their hosts for 286 and, led by skipper Marcus Trescothick's 75, reached 226-4 in reply by the close.
Durham resumed on 132-2 and soon lost Dale Benkenstein (72) and Gordon Muchall (32), bringing an end to a third-wicket stand of 107.
Wickets continued to fall regularly, including a haul of 4-60 for seamer Ben Phillips, as Durham were all out in mid-afternoon.
Trescothick took an aggressive approach in response, powering to his half-century from 66 balls.
The former England left-hander was one of two victims for Ben Harmison (2-58) as Somerset, after a brief rain delay, were pegged back to 180-4.
But fifth-wicket duo James Hildreth (31no) and Peter Trego (33no) counter-attacked to add an unbroken 46 and take the visitors to the first of five available batting bonus points.
With Division One leaders Nottinghamshire, who started the final round of fixtures two points clear of Somerset, being frustrated by the weather in their match against Lancashire at Old Trafford, Trescothick's men have edged ahead in the race.
As things currently stand they are one point in front and appear well placed to claim the county's maiden County Championship - although Yorkshire, who need a win over Kent to stand any chance, could also yet have a say in the final outcome.
Durham batsman Dale Benkenstein frustrated title-chasing Somerset when play belatedly got under way on the opening day at Chester-le-Street.
Benkenstein and Gordon Muchall shared an unbroken third-wicket stand of 99 to guide their side to 132-2 in the 40 overs possible.
Rain prevented any action until 3.25pm, when Durham opted to bat first after winning the toss.
They were soon in trouble at 33-2, Michael Stoneman (15) edging behind off Charl Willoughby (1-65) and opening partner Michael Di Venuto (18) trapped lbw by Ben Phillips (1-19).
But Somerset failed to make any further breakthroughs as Benkenstein and Muchall stood firm either side of tea, despite a fine spell of bowling from the luckless Alfonso Thomas (0-13), who passed bat on several occasions during his seven overs.
Benkenstein was the main aggressor, hitting 12 fours to reach 71 from 97 balls, while Muchall only found the boundary once on the way to 23 off 103 deliveries.
With extra time being played on the first three days to allow Somerset an early getaway on Thursday, play continued until 6.15pm.
The Cidermen are booked on a plane from Newcastle to London at 7pm on Thursday, allowing them a full day to prepare for the Clydesdale Bank 40 final against Warwickshire.