THERE was joy at last for managerless Sunderland RCA when they edged past Birtley Town in the Preliminary Round of the Durham Challenge Cup.
When Joe Hughes was brought down on 26 minutes, Gavin Barton converted the penalty and four minutes later Hughes was again involved, this time crossing for Barton to tap home from close-range.
Early in the second period, Birtley were thrown a lifeline as Joe Gill halved the deficit but in the 75th minute Barton completed his hat-trick, heading past goalkeeper Mark Fish.
At 3-1, Birtley faced a formidable challenge and their hopes receded when Gill was carried off with an ankle injury after they had used all three subs.
Even so, they were in with a chance when Derek Waters reduced the arrears to a single goal. RCA though held on for a morale-boosting victory.
Washington defeated Chester-le-Street 5-3 following a thrill-a-minute contest at the Nissan Sports complex.
The Newtowners romped into a three-goal lead through James Fairley, with a brace, and Mark Davison but before the break John Honour replied.
Paul Wardle restored Washington’s three-goal cushion only for Scott Heslop to raise the Cestrians’ hopes.
With half an hour remaining, it was not over by any means but when Chris Winn made it five, Washington were well and truly in the driving seat. Near the end Ben Johnson scored a third goal for the visitors with a direct free-kick.
Anth Lee, Simon Ord (pen) and Scott Brassell swept Tow Law Town into the next round at the expense of neighbours Esh Winning.
An extra-time goal by Shaun Reay eased Hebburn Town through at Ryton and Crawcrook Albion for whom Phil Rogers cancelled out Shannon North’s first-half strike.
In the Ebac Northern League Division One, North Shields won at Jarrow Roofing where Dean Holmes scored both goals.
West Auckland Town hit Whitley Bay for six courtesy of Stephen Richardson, with a hat-trick, Ian Ward, Robbie Briggs and Jake Fowler. Jonny Godsmark, Alex Kempster and Peter Watling netted for the Seahorses.
Unbeaten Consett coasted to their fourth win in seven games when Michael Mackay (2), Luke Sullivan and Chris Moore netted against Celtic Nation.
In Division Two, Ryhope CW drew with Darlington RA. Matthew Wears and Jack Pounder, with an 87th-minute equaliser, struck for the Wearsiders with Daryl Evans (og) and Jim Wilson on the mark for RA.
South Shields are up to third after making it six wins on the bounce at the expense of Northallerton Town, whose three marksmen were Stuart Owen (pen), Danny Mellanby and Ben Palmer.
Barrie Smith, David Molloy, Stephen Ramsey, Paul Kane and James Talbot were on target for the Mariners who played all but 10 minutes with 10 men following the dismissal of Chris Feasey.
Dunston UTS progressed in the FA Cup with a 2-0 victory over Marske United in the First Qualifying Round replay.