Chester-le-Street remain out of front of Division Two after seeing off sixth-placed Easington Colliery 2-0 in a tight clash.
Jack Stafford took advantage to fire the opener when the Colliers defence failed to clear the ball on the half hour mark, but it wasn’t until the 88th minute that Scott Heslop scored the crucial second goal.
South Shields look as if they will take some stopping for one of the three promotion places.
A bumper crowd of 1,045 – by quite a big margin the biggest in the entire league – saw them demolish Ryton and Crawcrook Albion 4-0 at Mariners Park.
The goals flowed from Lewis Teasdale, Warren Byrne, Lee Paul Scroggins and former Sunderland star Julio Arca, whose superb strike set the seal on a great day for the club.
Gary Pearson’s Ryhope CW have steadily moved up the table and are third after seeing off Heaton Stannington 3-1 at Recreation Park.
Damien Stevens was an early marksman with a magnificent left-foot strike, but Adrian Watson levelled almost immediately as the home defence switched off.
Simon Ord, though, regained the lead by half-time and Ryhope deservedly clinched all three points when recent signing Stevens finished off in style with a right-footed, close-range effort from a great ball into the box by the outstanding Nathan O’Neill.
There was good news for the three leading sides when Darlington RA, now fourth, and Team Northumbria, down to fifth, both lost.
Brandon United, who flirted with relegation for most of last season, are a much improved team this term and they won 4-2 at RA with strikes by Dean Thexton (2), Kieran Weeks and James Ellis. Dan England and Nathan Wilson (pen) replied.
Tow Law Town only just escaped the drop and they too have come good, but they were still very much the underdogs at home to Team North.
Sam Reid (own goal), Adrian Bailey, Craig Barker and Adam Burnicle upset the form book, with Robert Spence claiming the only goal for the visitors, whose misery was compounded a minute from time with a red card for Louis Storey.
Birtley Town eased their position near the bottom of the table with a 3-2 win at Whickham thanks to Damon Ellis, Jack Mitchell and Matt Soulsby (pen). Chad Collins and Craig Brook responded.