Northamptonshire 288 (Keogh 113, Berg 66, Higgins 4-68) and 272 for 8 (Keogh 74, Zaib 65) drew with Gloucestershire 223 (Bracey 117, Sanderson 4-66) and 363 (Higgins 139, Lace 73, Dent 54, Gohar 53, Sanderson 5-66)
Higgins, who had earlier made 139 as Gloucestershire set the hosts 299 to win, struck in successive balls to remove first Lewis McManus and then Gareth Berg as a nail-biting chase came down to the final over.
However, Higgins spilt a drive by Tom Taylor with four balls left and Northamptonshire hung on to deny the visitors on their return to Division One for the first time since 2005.
Earlier, Ben Sanderson took three wickets including that of Higgins, returning 5 for 66 to set up the thrilling run chase.
Gloucestershire began on 326 for 6 with centurion Higgins still at the crease, but perhaps conscious they would be a bowler light due to Naseem Shah’s shoulder injury, they showed precious little sign of wanting to press on towards a declaration.
Higgins struck one early boundary but was otherwise becalmed by Sanderson who trapped the allrounder lbw for 139, before having Taylor caught behind.
Zafar Gohar struck a glorious on-drive to go to 50, but Nathan Buck pinned him in front and Sanderson had Naseem caught in the deep to complete his fifer.
Northamptonshire skipper Ricardo Vasconcelos got the chase off to a flyer with a couple of glorious drives and it wasn’t long before Gloucestershire turned to Gohar in search of inspiration. Bowling into the rough outside left-hander Emilio Gay’s off stump, Gohar unsettled the academy graduate.
Taylor then struck on the stroke of lunch finding the edge of Vasconcelos’s bat to give James Bracey his sixth catch of the game. On the resumption, Gohar and Taylor cranked up the pressure with 36 dot balls, Gay top-edging an attempted sweep off the spinner just beyond the clutches of a fielder in a bid to break the shackles.
Pressure told when Gay nicked one through to give Bracey, while Curran took 22 balls to get of the mark, making a skittish 18 before Gohar trapped him lbw.
Gloucestershire couldn’t seize the moment, Keogh’s presence bringing a new calmness to Zaib as the pair regrouped before unfurling a string of boundaries immediately after tea which brought 40 runs in six overs as they began to sense an unlikely win.
An eighth four took Zaib to a seventh first-class 50, but Miles Hammond interrupted the carnage somehow clinging onto a skier to end the allrounder’s innings on 65.
Keogh kept up the charge hoisting Gohar over square leg for six to reach a second 50 of the match before the spinner gave him a life on 57 failing to hold on to a sharp caught and bowled opportunity.
The reprieve appeared decisive as he and Cobb rattled up a 50-stand, but with victory in sight Gohar got Keogh to play too soon and chip a catch to mid-off.
Cobb assumed the mantle, clubbing Gohar over long-on, only to perish trying to repeat the shot before the dramatic finale unfolded.