BENDIGO Country Week defending division one premiers Ferntree Gully climbed from fifth to second on the ladder after winning a thriller for the second day in a row on Wednesday.
Ferntree Gully improved its record to 2-1 after holding off Castlemaine by seven runs at Poyser Motors Oval on day-three action.
The seven-run victory followed Ferntree Gully's one-run triumph over Murray Valley on Tuesday.
Ferntree Gully made the most of the invitation to bat first, compiling 8-229 off its 50 overs.
The backbone of the innings was half-centuries from Jayden Bradbury (59) and Martin Weightman (52), while captain Nicholas Bogar chipped in with 39.
Opening bowler David Forde (3-50) was the chief wicket-taker for Castlemaine.
Andrew Ferres (2-39) and Adam Prewett (2-23) - the ninth bowler used - picked up two wickets each.
In reply, Castlemaine fell just short in its chase as it was restricted to 9-222.
Castlemaine's innings got off to a horror start when it was 2-2 following the early dismissals of openers Nathan Stubbings (1) and Sean Smith (0).
However, Castlemaine worked its way back into the contest through John Howorth and veteran Jamie Allan.
Allan top-scored with 84 batting at No.5 in what was his second half-century in a row, while Howorth added 46.
Skipper Matt Kile contributed 27 for Castlemaine, during which he put on 72 for the third wicket with Howorth.
Ferntree Gully's Victoria Country representative bowler Cameron Wheeler continued his good form with the ball, capturing 4-65 off 13 overs to take his tally of wickets for the week to 10.
• Goulburn Murray remains the pace-setter after keeping its unbeaten record intact on the back of another stellar betting effort from opener Liam Gwynne.
Goulburn Murray proved far too strong for Northern Districts at Harry Trott Oval, recording a 74-run victory.
Chasing Northern Districts' 7-212, Goulburn Murray cruised to victory as it answered with 3-286.
Goulburn Murray passed its target no wickets down after Gwynne and Joe Taylor shared in a 238-run opening stand.
After making 185 against Ferntree Gully on day one, English import Gwynne smashed 171 in another sublime innings.
Having also made 28 against Castlemaine on Tuesday, Gwynne now has 384 runs for the carnival at an average of 128.0.
Unfortunately for Taylor, he fell just short of a century when he was dismissed for 97.
The innings continued Goulburn Murray's powerful batting, with last year's runners-up now having blasted totals of 3-286, 8-262 and 6-273 in its three games.
All 11 players bowled for Northern Districts, with the three wickets taken by Clayton Holmes (3-42).
Earlier, Northern Districts scored 7-212 after it won the toss.
Openers Holmes (27) and Tyler Jones (52) gave the side a solid platform with a 72-run stand for the first wicket.
The partnership followed on from the 96 Holmes and Jones put on against Gisborne the previous day.
Jones' 52 was his second-consecutive half-century as his solid form continued.
However, Goulburn Murray fought back well with the ball as Northern Districts struggled to build partnerships after the strong start.
From 0-72, Northern Districts later fell to 6-151, before it was able to regain some momentum through Jason Keath (44 n.o.) and Bradley Windridge (20).
Keath and Windridge added 52 for the seventh wicket that pushed Northern Districts' score above 200.
Keith Chalmers (2-16) and Hamish Lewis (2-35) were the multiple wicket-takers for Goulburn Murray in what was another strong performance from the ladder-leaders.
• Gisborne broke through for its first victory of the carnival, upsetting Murray Valley by 33 runs at J.L. King Weeroona Oval.
A century to star batsman Kieran Atkin highlighted Gisborne's 6-269.
Atkin belted the Murray Valley bowlers to all parts of the ground, crunching 10 fours and eight sixes.
So dominant was Atkin, he scored 116 of Gisborne's 163 runs while he was at the crease after coming in with his side in early trouble at 2-11.
The Gisborne rescue mission was also led by Haydn Ross (34), captain Warren Else (41) and Jacob Brewer (59).
Atkin and Ross shared in a 111-run stand for the third wicket.
Captain Ash Quin (2-42), Thomas Glover (2-34) and Marc Baker (2-42) took two wickets apiece for Murray Valley, which in reply was held to 9-236.
Murray Valley's chase got off to a positive start through openers Dean Edge (51) and Luke Patel (48).
They put on 92 for the first wicket, but Gisborne controlled the rest of the innings with the ball.
While Edge and Patel batted well at the top of the order, Brodie Ross top-scored for Murray Valley at No. 5 with an unbeaten 55.
The star with the ball for Gisborne was Else, who capped a fine all-round game with a six-wicket haul.
Else finished with 6-80 off 19 overs, with his wickets including Murray Valley's top-four batsmen as he led his side to victory.
• After three days of competition, it's a logjam on the ladder behind top-two sides Goulburn Murray (3-0) and Ferntree Gully (2-1).
Gisborne, Castlemaine, Murray Valley and Northern Districts all have 1-2 records heading into round four.
• Division Two:
Portland 8-218 (G. Hollis 41, P. Young 41, N. Abley 4-45) d Benalla 58 (A. Startin 15, J. Elford 6-17) & 5-55 (A. Sutherland 18, D. Kinghorn 2-13).
Emu Valley 4-272 (M. Giri 60, J. Leith 2-51) d Wimmera-Mallee 8-211 (J. Leith 75, Alex Collins 3-11).
Swan Hill 167 (J. Toomey 92, K. Teasdale 2-19) & 1-27 d Goulburn Murray Colts 152 (R. McMinn 35, C. Daniels 3-34).
Northern United 8-198 (G. Harker 47*, J. Blandford 3-35) d Grampians 9-176 (J. Blandford 41, M. Sherwell 4-44).
Grassmere 9-233 (M. Habel 53) d Red Cliffs 218 (L. Ryan 5-79).
Maryborough 5-246 (S. Bartlett 76, W. Lolicato 2-39) d Northern Districts Colts180 (J. Lunghusen 46, S. Dellavedova 4-47).
Bendigo d Upper Loddon. G. Davies (Bgo) 115. No scores.