Kent remain on course to retain the Twenty20 Cup after a 14-run victory over Essex in the first semi-final at the Rose Bowl.
After opting to bat first, Kent posted a total of 173-7 with opener Joe Denly's 36 from 27 balls the top score, in the process Denly overhauled Yorkshire's Anthony McGrath as the leading run-scorer in this year's competition.
Denly and captain Robert Key (20) got the innings off to a flying start with a stand of 58 before introduction of leg-spinner Danish Kaneria (2-28) stalled the momentum on a slow wicket.
Solid middle-order contributions from Darren Stevens (29) and Azhar Mahmood (27) ensured a competitive score despite medium pacer Ravi Bopara's (3-36) best efforts.
Essex looked in total control of the run chase during an opening partnership of 78 between Bopara and Mark Pettini.
But, as was the case in Kent's innings, once the pace was taken off the ball in the middle overs runs became harder to come by.
Graham Napier failed to replicate his big-hitting exploits of the group stage, managing just three off five balls at number three after off-spinner James Tredwell (1-26) had Bopara (29) caught-and-bowled.
The run outs of Pettini (54) and Grant Flower (17) during the 15th over reduced Essex to 117-4 and saw the required-rate start to spiral.
And scoreboard pressure took its toll on the lower order, wickets fell regularly - including two for Yasir Arafat (2-22) and another run out - as Essex finished short on 159-8.
The second semi-final between Durham and Middlesex starts at 3pm, followed by the final at 7.15pm.