Career best figures from Jack White on the final morning were not enough for Northamptonshire who fell short in the final session against Essex.
White took six for 38 to skittle Essex for 110 as the visitors lost their last five wickets for 47 runs in the morning session and set up a tantalising run chase.
However Harmer extracted prodigious turn to claim six wickets after Sam Cook picked up three wickets in two overs to shatter Northamptonshire’s hopes of chasing 211.
A breezy 30 from Ricardo Vasconcelos boosted the hopes of the home fans before six wickets fell for 29 runs. Despite a belligerent 39 from Gareth Berg, the hosts were bowled out for 163, meaning they finish in sixth place in the Championship – their highest in 27 years.
Essex had resumed on 63 for five in the morning, in perfect overcast bowling conditions with White taking full advantage and obtaining plenty of movement outside off-stump.
He struck early when Michael Pepper edged a low catch to Emilio Gay at second slip and Gay was in action again when Harmer (16), who had played a few lusty blows, played a wild slash and edged White into the cordon.
White claimed his second career five-fer when he trapped Shane Snater lbw and then achieved his best ever figures when the ball flew once more to Gay who took a tumbling catch to dismiss Matt Critchley (20). White’s figures eclipsed his previous best of five for 14 achieved against Lancashire in July. Tom Taylor then wrapped things up when he nipped in to claim the wicket of Cook.
In the run chase, Snater and Cook bowled a probing spell with the new ball before lunch, making an early breakthrough when Emilio Gay prodded at one outside off-stump from Snater and edged behind.
Vasconcelos found the boundary off consecutive balls from Snater in the over before lunch including a glorious drive through the covers.
Northamptonshire began the afternoon session with a flurry of boundaries with Vasconcelos crunching the ball through extra cover and finding the ropes three times in one expensive over from Cook.
Skipper Will Young too was into his work and greeted Harmer by hitting him over his head for another boundary. Harmer had his revenge later in the over though when he got one to turn sharply out of the rough. Young shaped to pad it up only for the ball to spin past his legs and smash into leg stump.
Vasconcelos attempted to pull Cook but the ball kept low and hit the top of his off-stump. Rob Keogh left Cook’s next delivery which nipped back to trap him lbw.
Wickets continued to fall with Cook striking again in his next over when Luke Procter was given out caught behind behind to leave Northamptonshire’s run chase hopes in tatters.
James Sales was the next to go adjudged lbw to Harmer to a ball which struck him well outside the line and looked like it would have gone over the stumps. Saif Zaib struck three boundaries before he was next to go, leaving a ball from Harmer which spun back and hit the stumps with the Northamptonshire now well behind the game on 93 for seven.
Gareth Berg took the offensive approach, smoting Harmer through the covers for two boundaries and hitting a six all off one over and continued to take the attack to the spinner as he was joined in a partnership of 49 with Taylor who also looked to be positive during his 26. Taylor eventually departed when he was unfortunate to be given out caught at bat pad after coming down the wicket to Harmer, the ball appearing well away from the bat and taking pad alone.
Berg then fell in similar fashion with Browne taking an excellent diving catch off the inside edge before White was the last batter to go, trapped lbw by Harmer to finish with six victims in the innings.