Seaham Red Star could not stop title hopefuls Morpeth Town, who ran out 5-2 winners as ex-Washington star Mark Davison fired a brilliant hat-trick.
But Red Star started well and opened the scoring after just three minutes, as Paul Gardiner raced clear and chipped keeper Karl Dryden. Town levelled when Davison headed a 12th-minute corner past Shaun Newbrook.
Ben Sayer’s 25-yarder put Morpeth in front, but Star rallied strongly, and Robbie Bird ‘s right-foot shot into the bottom corner levelled it up.
Liam Henderson scrambled home Morpeth’s third from a corner, then Davison’s fine left-foot shot made it 4-2.
Bird was sent off for an off-the-ball incident to hamper Seaham, with Davison, who also rattled with bar in an impressive display, completing his hat-trick late on, blasting home from six yards.
Sunderland RCA made life tough for fast-improving Marske United, but will be disappointed with their 4-2 home defeat.
Nathan Mulligan’s 18th-minute header had United ahead, but RCA equalised five minutes later when Stephen Callen headed home.
Marske regained the lead after Jordan Butterworth’s shot squirmed through debutant keeper Jonathan Carmichael’s hands.
RCA started the second half in style, and Ross Preston headed past keeper Robert Dean on 46 minutes.
However, three minutes later, Marske went ahead for the third time, following a corner, with Colin Larkin scoring an own goal when trying to clear. Peter Bulmer smashed a clinching fourth goal on 75 minutes.
Ryhope CW remain third-bottom after a 3-0 defeat at Newton Aycliffe.
An early goal from ex-Sunderland player Jordan Laidler, who chipped returning keeper Chris Rookes, had Ryhope on the back foot.
It was 2-0 on 26 minutes when John Campbell fired home a direct free-kick, giving Rookes no chance.
Right on half-time, Campbell scored his second of the game from long range.
Washington remain just two points above the relegation trap door, following a 2-0 home defeat to Ashington.
Ben Harmison opened the scoring. His ball into the box produced a scramble in front of goal, but it came loose to Harmison, who fired home.
The Mechanics fell 2-0 behind on 50 minutes, with David Dormand collecting a half-cleared ball, turning and whipping in a superb shot which keeper Dale Connor had no chance of stopping.
Fourth-bottom Chester-le-Street lost 2-1 at Penrith.
Jamie Street’s great diving header past keeper Jack Wilson had the Cumbrians in front on 47 minutes.
Ten minutes later, Bobby Atkinson latched onto a through ball and slotted home. Sub Daniel Bedding threw Chester a lifeline, forcing the ball home from close range, but an equaliser eluded the Cestrians.
North Shields won the match of the day 1-0 at South Shields in front of a bumper crowd of 2,651.
Goalkeeper Kyle Hayes was outstanding for the leaders, making a string of excellent saves, including keeping out a Julio Arca penalty.
The crucial goal came on 84 minutes, Kevin Hughes smashing home from close range in a scramble. South Shields have two games in hand on their rivals, but are now eight points behind.
South Shields co-manager Lee Picton said: “We totally dominated the game but were beaten by a smash and grab effort, with one of their rare attacks.”