Leaders held to surprise draw as title race takes another twist

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SUNDERLAND RCA were toppled from pole position but are guaranteed a top-four place in the STL Northern League First Division.

West Auckland Town are the new leaders but in yet another surprise result, they could only draw with relegation-threatened Penrith.

Fortunes ebbed and flowed from the first minute until the last before the sides ended 4-4.

An own goal gave West a dream start but Penrith shocked their illustrious visitors with strikes from Martin Coleman and Ben Jackson.

Former Chester-le-Street striker Elliott Gardner restored parity only for Jackson to regain the lead for the Cumbrians.

Mark Hudson and Gardner then put West on course for three crucial points but in the very last minute Grant Davison delivered a pile-driver which gave goalkeeper Mark Bell no chance.

West Auckland are four points in front of Spennymoor Town, who have a game in hand and six ahead of Dunston UTS who have played two fewer fixtures.

At the bottom, Penrith are now just a point adrift of Jarrow Roofing but whereas they have three games to play, Roofing’s last match is at Bedlington Terriers on Saturday.

Gillford Park clinched promotion from Division Two with victory at Chester-le-Street where Mark Shiels fired in on 40 minutes.

Immediately on resuming, Alex Ryan levelled but the Cumbrians made history as Gavin Barton converted a penalty for the winner.

Gillford are in the top flight for the first time as are Team Northumbria while Hebburn Town return after more than a decade in Division Two.

Northallerton Town romped home at Whickham where they established a four-goal lead courtesy of Stephen Butterworth (2), Gary Cook and Carl Chillingsworth before Sam McIntosh converted a late penalty.