Ryhope CW moved into third position in Division Two on Saturday, but they had their work cut out before defeating lowly Birtley Town 3-2.
Kieron Day was a second-minute marksman for the visitors, but Ryhope responded to the urgings of manager Gary Pearson as they stormed 3-1 ahead by the interval, courtesy of strikes from Richard Hodgson (2) and Damien Stevens.
Andrew Townsend’s 88th-minute goal for Birtley set up a frenetic finale, but Ryhope held on and are now just nine points adrift of table-toppers South Shields, with two games in hand.
Second-placed Chester-le-Street closed the gap on Shields to five points when they thumped Alnwick Town with an eight-goal blast at Chester Moor Park.
Scott Heslop rifled a hat trick for the impressive Cestrians, while Lee Mole bagged a brace, with Ben Johnson, Andrew Grant-Soulsby and Joe Hamblin also beating goalkeeper Nathan Brown.
It was certainly a baptism of fire for manager Adam Laidlaw and assistant Ross Flintoff, who took charge of Alnwick for the first time.
Two late goals from Callum Smith and Chris Smith earned Hebburn Town the points at home in a 2-0 win over Willington, while Craig Hutchinson claimed a point for Billingham Town when he cancelled out Liam Clark’s strike for Esh Winning. Washington won for the first time in six First Division games with a 2-0 victory at Doctor Pitt Welfare Park which consigned Bedlington Terriers to the bottom of the table.
Following a free-kick, Chris Winn found returning striker John Butler and he scored from close range on 15 minutes.
Bedlington, though, belied their lowly position and Danny Capewell had a header cleared off the line before Winn beat the offside trap and produced a neat finish to seal Washington’s win.
West Auckland moved off the basement with a crucial 2-1 victory at Norton and Stockton Ancients, who are now second-bottom.
They were undone by the clinical finishing of Chris Emms. He sprung the offside trap before rounding goalkeeper Michael Thackeray and then delivered an exquisite free-kick into the top corner of the net.
Although Rui Williamson threw Norton a lifeline, West held on for only their third win in 17 attempts.
Durham City had to settle for a 0-0 draw at Newcastle Benfield, but, for a moment, thought they had clinched victory in the last minute.
Ryan Cummings found the net, but his effort was disallowed for offside.
After the game, Benfield announced that players Paul Brayson and Mark Convery had been appointed as the management team, taking over from Steve Bowey, who resigned a fortnight ago.
City have signed Ryan Cummings from Spennymoor Town and Whitley Bay’s Luke Watson.