HORDEN CW’s Ebac Northern League Second Division survival hangs by a thread after they went down to Chester-le-Street on Saturday.
The Colliers made a dream start with Andy Lonsdale beating Cestrian goalkeeper Matthew Cook after just a couple of minutes.
Horden held onto the lead for 70 minutes but then a calamity of errors ended with John Pyle turning the ball into his own net. Worse was to follow and in the 77th minute, a back-pass was intercepted by Tom Alderson who lobbed the advancing Steven Hubery.
The Colliers’ hopes now rest on them winning their last two games and for Alnwick Town and Esh Winning to concede points.
Had Esh taken just one point from their game with Ryhope CW, Horden would have been relegated but Martin Swales’ side went nap with strikes from John Butler, with a hat-trick, Martin Metcalfe and Chris Winn.
The promoted Wearsiders, who have now scored 133 goals, are five points behind leaders Crook Town with two games in hand and a significantly better goal difference.
Crook, though, continue to press strongly for the championship and they enjoyed a seven-goal romp against Washington with Warren Byrne (3), Robbie Bird (2), David Paul and Mark Paterson (og) the marksmen. Washington’s only reply was credited to Dean Walker.
Crook and Ryhope will finish in the top two and the race is on for the third promotion place.
Jarrow Roofing remain third but suffered a damaging blow at home to Northallerton Town for whom Ian Smurthwaite converted a 15th-minute penalty awarded for a foul by Roofing goalkeeper Ryan Graham.
When Graham was again penalised, this time for an infringement outside the box, he was sent off in the 37th minute and Michael Hedley took over. He denied the visitors for 50 minutes but three minutes from time Adam Emson wrapped up the points for sixth-top Northallerton.
Morpeth Town, who are a couple of points behind Roofing, having played the same number of games, are the other serious contenders for third spot.
The Northumbrians, though, were taken to the wire by Tow Law Town and the only goal came 15 minutes from time, courtesy of regular marksman Michael Chilton.
One-time challengers Seaham Red Star were involved in a goalless draw with Whickham and Birtley Town suffered a three-goal defeat at home to Stokesley SC for whom Ben Bonner (2) and Derek Bradley were the scorers.
With Norton and Stockton Ancients relegated on Saturday, a number of sides are battling to avoid joining them in Division Two next season.
Among them are Sunderland RCA, who are fifth from bottom just one place above the drop zone. Neil Hixon’s side lost again, as Dunston UTS won with an only goal scored with less than a minute on the clock.
From the kick-off, Stephen Shaw burst down the right and his cross to the far post was headed in by Danny Craggs. The turning point in the game came on 35 minutes when RCA’s Scott Richards was sent off.
Second-bottom South Shields need to win their last three games to have any chance of surviving. Their five-match winning sequence was abruptly ended by fourth-top Whitley Bay, who just about had the points wrapped up in the opening 10 minutes following goals by Lewis Burns and Paul Chow.
With a minute remaining Chris Fawcett added a third goal.
Newcastle Benfield are also in deep trouble and they too were well beaten at Bishop Auckland whose marksmen were Jamie Harwood, Andy Johnson and Ryan Cummings.
Billingham Town consigned neighbours Norton and Stockton Ancients to the drop with a 3-3 draw, but they are also in trouble, just a point and a place outside the bottom three.
It looked all over for them at Norton where they leaked three goals in 26 minutes to Dale Mulligan (2) and Jack Proctor. Norton were coasting but then, amazingly, Billingham struck three times courtesy of Christian Selby (2) and Nick Martin in nine minutes just before the end, to earn a crucial point.
Durham City never fully recovered after conceding two goals in the opening 23 minutes to Guisborough Town’s Daniel Johnson. Jordan Galloway reduced the deficit just before the interval, but Adam Furness’s side failed to equalise and remain just a point below halfway in the table.
Darlington 1883 remain favourites for the championship after they defeated Shildon, with strikes from David Dowson and Steve Johnson.
Spennymoor Town are the only side with a chance of overtaking them,but despite defeating 10-man Hebburn Town, who had Keiran McDonald sent off after just three minutes, with goals from Michael Rae (2), Keith Graydon and Chris Lowther, they have a mountain to climb.