Chester-le-Street are level on points with leaders Team Northumbria in the Second Division.
Colin Wake’s men hit Esh Winning with a seven-goal blast on Saturday, with hat-trick hero Scott Heslop joined on the scoresheet by Jake Stafford (2), Craig Marron (pen) and Craig Mickle.
Team North had scored 35 goals in 10 games before Saturday, but they could only manage one from Dan O’Riley in the draw with Thornaby, for whom Theo Furness levelled.
Northallerton, 6-2 winners over Billingham Town, are third – with a visit to Chester-le-Street next up in the Brooks Mileson Memorial Cup tomorrow – and ambitious South Shields are up to fourth following a comfortable 4-0 success at Brandon United, with Daryll Hall, Adam Sakr, Wayne Phillips and Robert Briggs the marksmen.
Ryhope CW dented fifth-top Darlington’s RA’s promotion challenge when they edged a 3-2 home win, avenging their recent FA Vase defeat.
Scott England was an early scorer for the visitors, but Gary Pearson’s side roared back with strikes from Richard Hodgson and a Nathan O’Neill brace.
Harvey Saunders cut the deficit to 3-2 with his 88th-minute effort, but Ryhope held on for a hard-earned victory. Although they are just below half-way in the table, Ryhope have played fewer games than any other side.
Easington Colliery are sixth following a 4-2 victory at bottom-of-the table Stokesley SC, who have now conceded 55 times in 12 matches.
Aidan Heywood, Aidan Goodey, David Laight and Liam Gill netted for Paul Frame’s side, with Ian Danby and Ross Burdon on target for the hosts, who remain at the bottom with just one point.