Just a few months after suffering the last-day trauma of a shock relegation from the Premier Division, Sunderland are finding life almost as tough in their new surroundings, a home defeat on Saturday at the hands of Washington dropping the Wearsiders into the bottom three.
But there was some hope of better things to come as they pushed the title-chasers to the very last before finally succumbing by three wickets, and ironically it was one of their former players who effectively did for them.
An opening 68 in 127 balls from Michael Nunn gave Sunderland something to build on, and then Chris Dorothy weighed in with a similar personal score, this time from just 71 balls, although it took some belligerent late support from number nine bat Mattie Dench to eventually lift the home team to a decent 55-over total of 229-9.
Sunderland were wobbling on 145-7 when Dench joined Dorothy, but the pair put on 81 priceless runs in their eighth-wicket stand before both fell on the same score of 226.
Dench’s contribution had been two fours and four sixes in a 33-ball 47.
Washington also had a key partnership to look back on, Ashley Thorpe and Melvyn Betts putting on 108 for the fifth wicket which lifted their team from 98-4 to within sight of victory.
Betts’ contribution had been 44, while former Sunderland man Thorpe went on to make 80 from just 69 balls and Washington were able to scramble over the line from the penultimate ball.
Eppleton won with just four balls remaining at Felling, and Seaham Harbour ended Boldon’s winning streak.
A century from Felling’s Alan Robson, who hit 12 fours and four sixes on his way to an unbeaten 101, wasn’t enough to place the match beyond Eppleton’s reach, and with Graham Hoban (78 not out), acting as the perfect anchor the visitors eased home with six wickets to spare.
Boldon were sunk at the Harbour, bowled out for 179 with Jack Lacey and Craig Stephenson sharing six of the wickets to fall. Ian Pattison (88 from 110 balls) and Dale Shaw (60 not out from 64 balls) then combined to squeeze the life out of the visitors in a 95-run third-wicket stand.
South Hetton were rolled over for 90 at Sacriston, Graham Hubber returning figures of 5-30 from his 15 overs, and Ian Hunter polishing things off with a hat-trick.
Home skipper Robbie Atherton (3-25) then raised some hopes as he reduced the home team to 65-6, but Bryan Potts and Lee Murray kept their heads to see their team across the line.
Burnmoor turned in an excellent performance at Tudhoe, where the pair were meeting for the first time since their joint elevation to NEPL cricket at the end of last season.
Stephen Meek started the Burnmoor ball rolling with nine fours and three sixes in a good-looking 92, his runs coming from 130 balls faced, and with more bits and pieces contributions down the order the visitors felt able to declare after 49.2 overs on 215-9.
Simon Davies then threatened to win the game single-handedly for Tudhoe as he hit eight fours and six sixes, but he was then caught having made 93 from 97 balls, and that was the beginning of the end.
Three wickets each for Irosh Samarasooriya, Sean Tindale and Karl Bellerby wrapped the game up for the Moor.
Still out in front are Brandon, who made it five wins from five with a 53-run home victory over Willington.
, John Carmedy (62) and Sairaj Raghavan (6-22) their star performers.