Sunderland RCA did not have a good day at the office in Saturday’s Tyne/Wear derby away to Newcastle Benfield.
Benfield did not exactly erase all fears of relegation, but they considerably improved their chances of avoiding the drop when they hit Martin Swales’ side for six.
Early strikes by man-of-the-match Mattie Cornish and Paul Brayson set RCA a formidable challenge, but, when Clayton Davis halved the deficit, it was again all to play for.
However, the Wearsiders’ chances took a dive when James Armstrong brought down Dan Taylor and was sent off. From the resulting penalty, Brayson gave goalkeeper Jordan Harkess no chance to put Benfield 3-1 ahead.
It was then backs to the wall for the 10-man visitors, who couldn’t stem the flow of goals from Taylor, Mark Convery and hat-trick hero Brayson.
Nor could Washington against in-form Bishop Auckland, who finished 4-1 winners.
With half an hour gone on a windspoilt match, a free-kick was headed on by Jeff Smith to Andrew Johnson and the goal-scoring predator made no mistake.
Seven minutes later, Mechanics goalkeeper Martin Jackson picked up a back pass and, from the indirect free-kick, Johnson doubled his side’s lead, shooting wide of the Washington wall from 12 yards.
He later passed up a great chance to complete a hat-trick.
Washington were given a lifeline when Paul Wardle powerfully headed in a corner from Conor Okus and both Joe Walton and Greg Swansbury went close to equalising.
But Bishops finished strongly to seal victory, although they were lucky as a cross from Sam Orritt cannoned off Wardle for an own goal.
With only a minute left, Orritt was again the provider for Ross McCarthy to finish well and complete a 4-1 victory for the visitors.
Durham City, who were without a fixture, are now second-bottom following Bedlington Terriers’ dramatic 5-3 victory over basement side Norton and Stockton Ancients.
Jonathan Wright was Terriers’ star man, scoring three of his team’s five goals. Marc Walton and Mason Stephenson were the other marksmen.
At one stage, Norton led 2-1 courtesy of Thibault Charmey and Philip Caley. Although Ryu Williamson also struck for the Teessiders, Bedlington claimed a crucial win and are now third-bottom – a point above Durham.
Whitley Bay, beaten by West Allotment Celtic on Friday, stay fourth from the basement and Jarrow Roofing are also looking over their shoulders.
They took a 12th-minute lead through Paul Chow but could not halt Shildon’s strong challenge for the championship.
Goals by Ben Wood, Lewis Dodds and Michael Rae steered Shildon home 3-1 to extend their lead over Marske United to 16 points.
Marske did not have a game, while third-top Guisborough Town’s title aspirations received a setback when they could only draw with Dunston UTS.
Guisborough led from the 14th minute, through Danny Earl, but, with only three minutes remaining, Malcolm Morien equalised.
Morpeth Town are fourth but, with 19 games still to play – not to mention the FA Vase Final at Wembley – their task of closing in on Shildon’s 23-point lead might be too big.
Manager Nick Gray, though, has not given up the challenge and a 4-2 victory over Penrith keeps his side in the frame. Chris Reid (2), Ben Sayer and Shaun Taylor were the matchwinners.