A fight for survival was the last thing Surrey were expected to be facing at this stage of the season.

But after one win in their first nine Specsavers County Championship matches – dwarfed by four defeats – that is the unappetising prospect for last year’s runaway champions.

Two of those setbacks have come in the past week, firstly against Yorkshire at Scarborough where they went down by 123 runs with 10 balls to spare after four days in which the advantage shifted by the hour.

Then Kent inflicted another reverse, by five wickets at the Kia Oval.

Comparisons with last year, when Surrey stormed to the Division One title, are impossible to ignore. A 75-run deficit was overcome on the same North Marine Road ground 12 months ago, Yorkshire swept away by a potent confident side who were confident they could triumph from almost any position.

Your Local Guardian:

This time Surrey carried an advantage of 35 into the second innings – which should have been far greater, given Mark Stoneman’s century put them just 80 behind with eight wickets in hand - yet failed to make the most of several good positions during the match and ultimately went down to defeat, Yorkshire’s tail wagging for a second time to ensure the visitors were set 318 in 83 overs. That was always going to be a tough challenge but looked achievable at 157-2 in the 49th only for the run out of Dean Elgar for 71 to spark a meltdown to 194 all out, despite 18-year-old Jamie Smith’s remarkably mature 24no almost saving the match.

Given leaders Somerset steamed to another victory, this time over Hampshire, it left Surrey 83 points adrift of the summit, sitting in sixth position, and effectively left them seeking security in a season which has never got off the ground and could yet see them in an anxious battle to stay up.

They began the current round of matches 39 points in front of bottom side Nottinghamshire, who they play at Trent Bridge from Saturday, and the fact that only one team will be relegated this season is becoming increasingly relevant to a side who began in April as the warmest of favourites to retain their crown.

They were bowled out for 271 on the first day by Kent, making the most of a grassy pitch, fighting half-centuries by Dean Elgar and Ben Foakes keeping the hosts afloat but a deficit of 98 being conceded.

Five wickets from veteran Darren Stevens saw Surrey despatched again for 218, Elgar fighting his way to 65 again but getting little support from a batting line-up which has misfired badly this season, left Kent 121 to win, which they managed despite a some scares along the way.

It makes the trip to Trent Bridge all the more important and Surrey must make it without wicketkeeper Foakes, who has been called up by England Lions.