With Chester-le-Street steamrollering their way to another powerful win there would appear little chance of anyone, except possibly Blaydon, catching them, so for the other teams it is already a case of jockeying for the best also-ran positions.
Sunderland did themselves a power of good when they nudged their way into the top five with an eight wicket home win over South Shields.
The day started well enough for Shields as Phil Bell (41) and James Hill (35) gave them a solid start in an opening partnership of 70, but once Jaspreet Singh was introduced to the Wearsiders attack everything changed.
Singh removed both openers in quick succession, and then went on to bag the first five batsmen in a spell of 5-51.
Chris Dorothy battled back with a gritty 45 but Singh’s intervention had slammed the brakes on and Shields had to be satisfied with scrambling up to a score of 184-8.
An early success with the ball then raised the visitors hopes, but that was as good as it got with Dan Shurben (55) and Michael Turns (79no) combining in a second wicket partnership that effectively settled the issue.
Hetton Lyons gave one of their most convincing displays since their return to the NEPL when they overpowered a strong Benwell Hill side by eight wickets at Denton Bank.
Ryan Pringle and new boy Kamran Shah were the catalyst for success. They had Hill on the run, the home side collapsing from the apparent comfort of 30-0 and 79-2 to lose their last eight wickets for just 36 runs, Shah bagging 4-28, and Pringle 5-39 from 16 overs.
Lyons lost their first two wickets with just 14 on the board, but then Pringle, with seven fours and a crisp six in an unbeaten 44, and Gary Scott (10 fours and a six in 59no) soon dispelled doubts with an unbroken match winning stand of 104.
A glorious innings of 136 from Ben Raine took the Academy to a three wicket victory over Newcastle – their second successive defeat after the unbeaten ten game run.
But Raine was outdone, just, by Chester’s Andrew Smith who was unbeaten on 137 as the Cestrians racked up 261-2 at Gateshead Fell.
Richard Waite (86no) joined Smith in a double century third wicket partnership, and then went on to pick up 3-24, as the leaders wrapped up a 132-run win.
Their lead is now 29 points, although Blaydon show signs of keeping right on their tail following another convincing performance by them which saw off Tynemouth by 46 runs.
Mark Stoneman hit his third century of the season, and with Allan Worthy adding 88 Blaydon declared on 240-2, which was just as well as it took them almost 52 overs to winkle their visitors out, spin doing the trick as Chris Varley (4-57) and Graeme Race (3-42) prospered.
H Sunderland lost their Banks Salver semi-final at Chester-le-Street yesterday. Despite five Kieran Waterson wickets, Simon Birtwisle (72) led Chester to a daunting 244-9. Sunderland were then bowled out for 177, Chris Youldon (45) top-scoring as Quentin Hughes bagged 5-36.