Charlotte, NC --- The Charlotte Knights raced to an early 5-0 lead, then held off the Durham Bulls 6-4 at BB&T Ballpark on Friday night.
First-place Durham (28-18) began its comeback in the fifth with a sacrifice fly from Nathan Lukes, followed by a Jake Cronenworth home run in the sixth to close to within 5-2.
Jake Smolinski drilled a home run to begin the seventh before the Bulls stole a second run in the inning thanks to a double steal from Cronenworth and Lukes, who stole home.
However, Durham stranded the tying and leading runs in the seventh, the tying runs in the eighth and fell for the first time in four games on its current road trip.
Ryan Merritt (L, 2-4) lasted just 2 1/3 innings, permitting five runs and eight hits to absorb the loss. Luis Santos worked 2 2/3 scoreless innings, with Andrew Kittredge extending his scoreless streak to 17 1/3 innings with a shutout eighth inning.
Mike Brosseau had two of Durham's eight hits, progressing his hitting streak to a team-best 12.
The Bulls' lead in the South was shaved to 1/2 game over second place Gwinnett, with Charlotte (26-19) moving to within 1 1/2.
The second of a four-game series is slated for Saturday night at 7:04 PM ET with Arturo Reyes (2-1, 3.05) opposing Charlotte's Ross Detwiler (1-0, 3.00).
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.