SUNDERLAND RCA are relegated to the Second Division of the Ebac Northern League.
Newcastle Benfield’s 2-1 victory at Consett last night secured their top-flight status but although the Wearsiders still have a game to play, against Shildon at Meadow Park tomorrow night, the Tynesiders cannot now be caught.
Gary Ormston set Benfield on their way to a crucial win when he buried a shot into the bottom corner of the net after goalkeeper Peter Jamieson had parried a right-wing cross.
Three minutes later, the visitors doubled the lead with a fortuitous goal. A corner from the left rebounded off the post and hit player manager Steve Bowey on the back before entering the net.
The Steelmen were given a lifeline in first-half added time. Aristote Guerin Lakonga beat the offside trap and fed Michael Mackay, who made no mistake with a strong finish past goalkeeper Jake Cunningham.
With only a minute left, a tremendous shot from Mackay was heading towards the Benfield goal but captain Kevin Leighton headed clear to the relief of his team-mates, who seconds later celebrated victory and survival.
Sunderland RCA join Norton and Stockton Ancients and South Shields in Division Two.
Crook Town, Ryhope CW and Morpeth Town qualify for promotion but the position of Ryhope is uncertain since they have been recommended by the ENL management committee to be compulsorily relegated because their facilities do not meet the criteria.
Ryhope’s fate will be discussed by the FA on Friday. Should the ENL’s position be upheld, then fourth-placed Jarrow Roofing will be promoted instead.
In other games last night, Spennymoor Town conceded a two-goal lead and had to settle for a draw with Dunston UTS who are likely to finish fifth. Gavin Cogden and Michael Rae were on target for Jason Ainsley’s side before Andy Bulford and Ian Herron replied for UTS.
Shildon came from behind to claim a point at Team Northumbria who led on 20 minutes with a long-range lob from the former Washington player Peter Watling, who has been a regular marksman throughout the season. John Brackstone headed in the equaliser from a corner.
H In the Wearside League, Jarrow lost 3-1 at Redcar Athletic, while an only goal by Malik Kaliaba proved sufficient for Prudhoe Town at Annfield Plain.