Seaham Marlborough sealed promotion from Division Two by securing an outstanding 1-0 win at previously unbeaten Thornley Celtic.
That clinched at least second place in the table - they lead Thornley by four points but have played five matches more.
Seaham, despite being down to the bare bones, started the stronger, with decent opportunities spurned by Mather and Whinn. Keeper Lowes’ only first-half action of note coming when he punched a corner away and saw it rebound off a Thornley player for a goal kick.
Constant Seaham pressure resulted in a number of second-half corners, and they finally broke the deadlock as an outswinging Crangle flag-kick fell to Punshon, on the edge of the box.
He floated it back in to the back post where Mather made no mistake from six yards. The expected late pressure from the hosts didn’t materialise as Seaham’s defence stood firm to deservedly take home all three points, boosting spirits for tomorrow’s Ironside Cup semi-final at Mill View SC.
Hylton CW all but clinched third place with a 1-0 victory at Horden Sportsmans, while Mill View SC climbed to sixth after beating Blakelaw SC 1-0 and Peterlee Helford won again, 3-1 at South Shields Catholic Club, to move four points clear of the bottom two, albeit having played several more games.
Wearmouth CW strengthened their grip on the First Division, moving eight points clear with a 1-0 victory at Hartlepool Gillen Arms.
The only goal came when a wind-assisted clearance fell for a forward, who cleverly rounded the keeper and prodded home. Wearmouth defended well to see out the game.
Second-top Washington Sandpiper suffered a third straight loss, 2-1 to Consett.
Lee Armitage celebrated the birth of his new daughter with a well-taken Consett opener, and Dan Gilbert ran though a static defence to double the lead early in the second half.
Winger Steve Jones pulled one back, cutting in from the right and side footing home.
Andy Lumsden shone in vain for Washington.
Both goalkeepers impressed in the 1-1 draw between Grindon Broadway and Heaton Stannington.
A brilliant save denied Grindon a fifth-minute opener, but they were soon ahead as Steven Ridley’s 20-yard pass sent winger Paul Griffiths away to beat his full-back and cross for Alan Ridley to score with a fierce header.
Heaton levelled with a penalty, converted by Steve Preen. Referee Ashley Cooper had another fine game.
Fourth-placed Easington CIU slipped up 2-0 at Pelton Crown, who moved up to third-bottom spot, while Dubmire were good 2-0 victors at bottom club St Mary’s College.
Wingate Cons boosted their promotion push in Division Three with a 6-2 defeat of Willow Pond.
Willow fell behind to a free-kick into the top left-hand corner, past disbelieving keeper John Davis, but they rallied when Gary Golightly set up Kit Tipling, whose shot was blocked by Wingate keeper Graeme Nixon, who completed a double save from Golightly’s follow-up.
Wingate scored again after a long ball was flicked on to beat the offside trap.
Willow lost three players to injury, including keeper Davis, and Wingate capitalised to go 5-0 up, including a fine volley and a penalty, following Andy Norman’s handball.
Keith Peverley set up Mark Redpath, who lobbed the keeper to pull one back, then Golightly and Peverley combined for the latter to cross for Redpath to score his second.
In a thrilling finale, Willow were hit on the break again and hero Redpath turned villian when he failed to clear a cross, allowing Wingate to head home their sixth.
The Philadelphia’s 1-1 draw at Redcar Old Boys was a farce at times, played in gale force winds.
Phili hit the bar twice before going ahead when Paul Russell coolly converted a twice-taken penalty, awarded for handball.
The Philadelphia led until stoppage time, when Redcar equalised.
Leaders Blue House edged closer to the title, winning 3-0 at Hedworthfield Red Hackle to go 16 points clear.
Oddies forced a 0-0 draw at second-top Richmond Town, while Rolls-Royce dropped to 11th after losing 2-1 at Woodhorn Lane.
Oddfellows Arms moved eight points clear of bottom spot in Division Four by beating city rivals Colonel Prior 1-0.
Bottom club Wearmouth Old Boys succumbed 5-0 to Stanley Ball Alley, while new keeper Martin Wilson shut out Shildon Grey Horse as Billingham Vets won 3-0 with goals from Mark Fisher (2) and Daren Harrison.
Steels King Bros slipped to the bottom of the Premier Division despite forcing a 0-0 draw against Darlington Shuttle & Loom. They are level with Wallsend Community on 13 points but have two games in hand.
South Shields, a point better off, moved off the foot of the table with a 1-0 win over mid-table Red House WMC.
Tomorrow’s fixtures feature 10 semi-finals in the divisional cups.