Chester-le-Street consolidated fourth place in Division Two with a thrilling home victory over Easington Colliery.
They were taken to the wire by Paul Frame’s men at Chester Moor Park, despite enjoying a dream start with two goals from Joe Hamlin and Scott Heslop by the sixth minute.
Luke Page quickly threw the Colliers a lifeline and, after three goals had been scored in the opening 14 minutes, it wasn’t until the 79th minute that Ben Johnson restored the Cestrians’ two-goal cushion.
There was still time though for Bryan Norton to throw the visitors a chance of saving the game, cutting the deficit to 3-2, but the Cestrians held on for three precious points.
Table-topping South Shields stretched their lead over Ryhope CW, whose game at Heaton Stannington was postponed, to eight points.
Although they scored courtesy of John Grey after only 12 minutes, it wasn’t until the final stages, that the Mariners saw off a spirited challenge by Ryton and Crawcrook Albion to win 4-0.
A 17-pass move led to the opener, Grey forcing home David Foley’s superb cross to the back post.
Shields had goalkeeper Scott Pocklington stretchered off with what proved to be ankle ligament damage, and they had to wait until the 84th minute for the crucial second goal.
Martyn Coleman showed good strength to turn his marker before pulling the ball across goal for substitute Stephen Ramsey, who was able to tap in.
Julio Arca converted a stoppage time penalty for his 10th goal for the Mariners – the first time the former Sunderland and Middlesbrough midfielder has reached double figures in a single campaign.
And Shields still had time to make it 4-0, with Arca laying one on a plate for Foley with a terrific cross, with the ex-Hartlepool United forward showing great bravery to get on the end of it and nod it in.
Billingham Synthonia are third, just a point behind Ryhope, following a 2-2 draw with resurgent, sixth-placed Northallerton Town.
Sam Garvie netted twice for Synners. as did Aaron Ramsbottom for the visitors.
Team Northumbria are also very much in the promotion mix. although they were hard pressed in defeating Tow Law Town 1-0.
It took a penalty to separate the sides. Stephen McCarthy was brought down and Gerard Richardson fired home past goalkeeper Robbie Anderson.
Willington were the biggest scorers of the day, when they impressively thumped Alnwick Town 5-0 away.
Two goals in the opening five minutes from William Preston and Anthony Lee set the Hall Lane men on their way and, before the interval, Lee was again on the mark.
In the second half, Corey Nicholson bagged a brace and Willington are now fifth-bottom, one place and three points ahead of Alnwick.
Basement side Stokesley SC gained only their eighth point of the season, holding Crook Town to a 1-1 draw. Stephen Fothergill was a first-half scorer for the Millfield men and there were only seven minutes left when Chris Horsley levelled.
There was also a 1-1 draw at Hebburn Town, for whom Glen Hargrave netted before Jamie Davis replied for Billingham Town.