Bolton League leaders Social Circle looked certain to progress to their first final since 1988 after bowling out last season’s league champions for just 114.
The combined bowling attack of Dave Mather (3-42), Chris Barrow (3-11), Josh Bohannon (3-26) and Liam Bones (1-23) blew Little Lever’s top order away on their home wicket.
Four of the visitors’ top six batsmen failed to make it into double figures, while the cheap dismissal of pro Kamran Younis for 18 looked to have ended the Victory Road side’s chances completely.
But captain Josh Gent eked out 20 precious runs, while the tail wagged a little with numbers seven and eight – Dane Hargreaves and Adam Carter – scoring 23 and 17 not out respectively.
After taking 48 overs to reach their meagre total it seemed a formality that Social Circle would knock off the runs they needed.
But a combination of careless shot-making and accurate bowling saw the wickets tumble at an alarming rate.
Rakeeb Mahmood took the prize scalp of Dave Tonge with just five runs on the board and his fellow opener Tim Rees was run out for just 10.
Social Circle went from 19-2 to 54-5 as Mahmood added the wickets of pro Rameez Alam and Tim Barrow, while Craig Mann trapped the dangerous Josh Bohannon leg before wicket.
Captain Matt Parkinson (16) and Chris Barrow (16) shared a stand of 28 for the sixth wicket, but after they both fell to Mann the league champions-elect crumbled from 82-6 to 97 all out.
The bowling of Mann (4-35) and Mahmood (4-22) was the deciding factor as Little Lever ran out 17-run winners, keeping dreams of a first Hamer Cup title since 1972 alive.
Heaton – the competition’s other finalists – have had an even longer wait for silverware, last winning the Hamer Cup in 1951.
But their 63-year hiatus could soon be over following a dramatic upsurge in form.
They went into the weekend with just one league win to their names, but after dispatching third-placed Westhoughton on Saturday, the Chruch Road men thrashed sixth-placed Horwich by eight wickets in the cup at Lower Pools.
Pro Humayun Farhat took 4-52 as Horwich were bowled out for 156 runs, 59 of which came from the bat of Chris Brownlow.
Teenaged opener Oliver Sutcliffe made an unbeaten 78 in reply, helping put on 57 with Matt Fray (23) for the first wicket before linking up with Mohammed Ali (41no) to guide Heaton past their target with the minimum of fuss.