SUNDERLAND RCA eased their Ebac Northern League First Division relegation fears with a crucial victory over Billingham Town at Meadow Park on Saturday.
David Lee’s side made a dream start when Gavin Barton latched onto a poor back-pass and struck from close-range before two minutes were on the clock.
It was all square on 21 minutes as Michael Dalton raced onto a through ball and fired wide of Jonathan Carmichael.
Callum Patton and Jack Stanger went close for the Wearsiders, but it remained a stalemate until five minutes from the end.
RCA were awarded a free-kick 25 yards out and Nathan Wilson delivered a tremendous strike into the back of the net.
A minute from the end, Gary Shields sent in an excellent cross which Barton slotted home to relieve RCA’s anxieties, taking them up to sixth-bottom spot.
With Billingham Town and Hebburn Town, who were without a fixture, both relegated, the fight is on between several clubs to avoid joining them in Division Two next season.
Team Northumbria also had a free day and they remain in the last relegation place. Bedlington Terriers are now immediately above them after losing 3-0 at Newcastle Benfield, whose marksmen were Carl Patterson, Phil Airey and Paul Brayson.
Morpeth Town gave their survival chances a lift when they held second-top Shildon to a draw.
Paul Connor’s 45th-minute goal looked as if it would win all three points for Shildon, but Scott Swanston shook the championship contenders when he struck following a corner a minute from time.
Penrith are just ahead of RCA following back-to-back wins in the space of five days, with Consett beaten 2-0 on Saturday, thanks to second-half strikes by Ryan Hall and Steven Rigg.
Mathematically, Crook Town are not out of the woods after losing 3-2 to Marske United, who leapfrogged them when Craig Gott (penalty), Jamie Poole and Jamie Clarke earned them the points. Kyle Davis struck twice for Crook.
Only one of the top six sides won, with Guisborough Town moving into fourth place with a resounding 4-0 victory at Ashington, who dropped to fifth.
Daniel Johnson was unquestionably man-of-the-match as the First Division’s leading scorer took his total to 40 when he rifled all four goals.
Leaders Celtic Nation were unable to make a numerical advantage count at West Auckland, who have several games in hand on all the sides above them.
West suffered a double blow on 31 minutes when Andrew Green was sent off and Colin McMenamin converted the resultant penalty.
Danny Moore doubled the Cumbrians’ lead, but 10-man West produced a splendid late rally to earn a point with a brace from Mattie Moffat in the final 12 minutes.
Spennymoor Town were reduced to 10 men in the 35th minute when captain Chris Mason was red-carded. John Butler gave visitors Bishop Auckland the lead before Gavin Cogdon, who had only been on the field for five minutes, struck the equaliser.