All rounder Laxmi Ratan Shukla struck a crucial 81 to help Bengal take a first innings lead against Madhya Pradesh and escape relegation from the Elite group of the Ranji Trophy competition in Kolkata on Monday.
Taking the cue from Sourav Ganguly, whose 121 brought back Bengal from the brink, Shukla emerged the saviour for his side, stretching the Bengal innings to 397 in reply to the visitors' 392.
By virtue of the first innings lead, Bengal bagged two vital points. It meant the hosts finished their league outings with six points from seven outings and pushed Madhya Pradesh to the bottom of the table (4) and to the Plate division.
The morning session had raised apprehensions when Bengal, who resumed at overnight score of 294/6, lost the valuable wicket of Devang Gandhi (77; 299m, 184b, 12x4) in the third over of the day.
The middle-order batsman, making a comeback after an injury lay off, was bowled by Sunil Dholpure before he could add any run to his overnight score.
But Shukla stood firm at one end even as tailenders Utpal Chatterjee and Ranadeb Bose got out cheaply, Bengal losing their ninth wicket at 379, still 13 runs behind MP.
Shukla kept his cool and finally hit Jitendra Likhar for a three to reach 393 and save relegation, much to the relief of the players and officials of the home side.
In the inconsequential second innings, the tourists scored 111 for the loss of two wickets.
Madhya Pradesh 1st innings: 392
Bengal 1st innnings:
A Das c N Ojha b S Pandey 4
D Dasgupta b S Pandey 13
S Das b Y Golwalkar 8
R Gavaskar c Sachin Dholpure b Y Golwalkar 38
S Ganguly b S Pandey 121
S Lahiri b Sunil Dholpure 10
D Gandhi b Sunil Dholpure 77
L R Shukla st N Ojha b Y Golwalkar 81
U Chatterjee c N Ojha b D Bundela 15
R Bose c S Abbas Ali b J Likhar 3
S S Paul not out 0
Extras (b-6, lb-5, nb-12, w-4) 27
Total (all out in 145.2 overs) 397
Fall of wickets: 1-13, 2-18, 3-55, 4-70, 5-106, 6-273, 7-297, 8-341, 9-379.
Bowling: S Pandey 38-7-106-3, Sunil Dholpure 34-11-85-2, D Bundela 16-5-25-1, Y Golwalkar 33.2-8-109-3, J Likhar 18-4-48-1, S Abbas Ali 6-1-13-0.
Madhya Pradesh 2nd Innings:
Sachin Dholpure st Dasgupta b U Chatterjee 6
N Ojha c A Das b U Chatterjee 51
D Bundela not out 50
S Abbas Ali not out 0
Extras (lb1, nb 3) 4
Total (For 2 wkts in 33.4 overs) 111
Fall of wickets: 1/34, 2/105.
Bowling: S S Paul 5-1-12-0, R Bose 4-0-12-0, U Chatterjee 12.4-2-45-2, D Gandhi 7-0-27-0, S Lahiri 5-0-14-0.