UNTIL recently, Sunderland RCA were flying high, but three defeats in a week have seen them toppled from pole position and ousted from the FA Carlsberg Vase.
They were firm favourites at Tow Law, who had taken just six points from 16 games, but Ian Davison’s side turned the form book on its head by winning 2-1.
Mark Nixon gave the Lawyers a dream start with his 10th-minute goal, but RCA were back on track as Brian Stewart levelled.
Luke Thompson regained the lead for the home side before the interval and although manager Neil Hixon made three substitutions in the space of 13 minutes, the visitors failed to produce a second equaliser.
Results could not have gone better for Dunston UTS, who have opened up a three-point lead at the top of the table over West Auckland, whose 14-match unbeaten sequence was ended by Newton Aycliffe on Friday night.
Goals by Michael Dixon and Andrew Bulford earned UTS a crucial victory at Billingham Town, who remain in the bottom six.
Whitley Bay defeated Norton and Stockton Ancients for the second time in a week, but unlike the previous game only one goal separated the pair, Paul Chow converting a penalty.
Spennymoor Town moved into fifth with victory over Jarrow Roofing, who led through Neil Scott.
Moors came back into the game courtesy of Sonny Andrews (2), and Leon Ryan.
Jon King’s South Shields lost to Shildon when they struck twice in the first half through Wayne Gredziak and Chris Hughes before Dan Kirkup claimed a consolation.
Bishop Auckland defeated Newcastle Benfield with goals by Daniel Hawkins (2) and Chris Bell. Michael Chilton replied.
In Division Two, basement side Horden CW caused an upset when they won for only the second time, defeating Birtley Town.
When Darren Reeves was brought down, Shaun Ryder converted the penalty and shortly afterwards Andrew Summerbell doubled the Colliers’ lead. Kevin Dixon replied.
Seaham Red Star beat Washington with a six-goals blitz from Tim Bowman (3), Kevin Gordon, Mark Moon and Calvin Gowland.
Easington Colliery were hit for six too at Northallerton Town. Peter Bulmer (2), Colin Anderson (2), Gary Cook and Carl Chillingsworth all scored, with Easington’s only goal credited to Chris Tarn.
Chester-le-Street’s three-game unbeaten sequence was ended by Crook Town, for whom Andrew Appleby scored the only goal.
Team Northumbria’s promotion challenge is back on track following their five-goal defeat of fourth-placed West Allotment Celtic.
Jack Palmer, with a hat-trick and Peter Watling (2) were the marksmen.
Whickham were without a fixture and North Shields now occupy the third promotion spot following victory over Whitehaven, with strikes from James Luccock and Craig Deighton.