SUNDERLAND RCA moved back into pole position of the STL Northern League with victory over Whitley Bay.
And when two of their three rivals for the championship conceded points, Neil Hixon’s side could hardly have enjoyed a better day.
Not only did victory in a seven-goal thriller enhance the Wearsiders’ prospects, but it all but mathematically ended those of Whitley Bay.
It was a close call, however and a disputed late penalty by Joe Walton eventually separated the sides.
The Seahorses romped into a two-goal lead through Paul Robinson and David Pounder before Jamie Oates and Mark Davison struck in the space of four early second-half minutes.
Pounder regained the initiative for Ian Chandler’s side only for Davison to again level the scores.
With only five minutes remaining, RCA were awarded a dubious penalty. Joe Walton kept his nerve and fired in the winner past Bay goalkeeper Kyle Hayes. In the last minute, though, there was another scare for the home side as Lee Kerr’s curling free kick clipped the woodwork.
West Auckland Town slipped to second when they lost at Bedlington Terriers, whose marksmen were Craig Hubbard, Glen Robson and Tony Shandran. Mattie Moffat was West’s only scorer.
Spennymoor Town also dropped points after being held to a draw by Guisborough Town.
Jamie Poole fired the visitors in front and it took Moors 46 minutes to level through Stephen Richardson.
Of the four sides contesting the championship, only Dunston UTS won, in addition to RCA.
Billy Irwin’s side were taken right to the wire at Newton Aycliffe before winning with Chris Swailes’ first-half strike.
At the bottom, the battle is on to avoid joining Stokesley SC in Division Two next season.
The critical game at the Ironworks Road ground was narrowly won by Jarrow Roofing, a result which lifts them out of the bottom three.
Michael Robson gave Tow Law Town an early advantage, but after Josh Allen levelled, Robson was sent off just before the interval.
Roofing took advantage and opened up a two-goal lead courtesy of Paul Robinson and Michael Hedley.
Mattie Scott threw the home side a lifeline but just before the end the Lawyers went down to nine men with the dismissal of Ian Davison.
Penrith are now in the bottom three after going down to Norton and Stockton Ancients, whose matchwinners were Dale Mulligan and James Magowan.
Billingham Town eased their relegation fears with victory at Marske United, who led through Jonathan Burton before Jamie Owens bagged a brace.
South Shields are the other side in the bottom six, Marc Walton scoring the only goal for Ashington at Filtrona Park.