IT couldn’t be closer at the top of the Wearside League table as leaders Ryhope CW and Stockton Town battle it out for the championship.
Ryhope, the only unbeaten side, were surprisingly held to a draw by third-bottom Gateshead Leam Rangers and are now equal on points with their Teesside rivals.
Michael Charlton gave the Wearsiders a promising start when he tapped the ball into the net past Leam goalkeeper Ryan Docherty but the home side were unable to build on their early lead.
With 20 minutes left on the clock Leam were awarded a penalty which Anthony Brewis drove past goalkeeper Ryan Graham.
Ryhope now lead the table only on goal difference from Stockton Town who eased past Ashbrooke Belford House.
Matthew Garbutt’s 22nd-minute effort took a deflection on its way past goalkeeper Brett Wilson and three minutes later Max Craggs slotted in a second goal.
Ashbrooke faced an uphill battle and their hopes of saving the game all but ended midway during the second period when Adam Nicholson struck from a Scott Meeham corner.
Silksworth CW were hit for six by Redcar Athletic who are competing with Cleator Moor Celtic to finish third-top.
Mark McGinley’s side held out until the 50th minute but from then on the goals flowed from Adam Preston, with a hat-trick, Keiran Stares (2) and Richie Playforth. Silksworth failed to reply.
Redcar moved into third place following Cleator Moor Celtic’s defeat at home to Richmond Town for whom Ben Darville scored the only goal in the last minute.
On a day of high-scoring games, Horden CW topped the scoring charts when they reached double figures against Harton and Westoe.
Darren Atkinson and Peter Crawford both rifled hat-tricks, there was a brace for Chris Tarn while Martin Fowler and Haydn Pace also added to the woes of Harton who, with 91 goals, have leaked more than any other side bar Boldon CA.
Hartlepool remain bottom following a heavy defeat at Annfield Plain who went six goals up courtesy of Lee Mole (3), Callum Monroe, Adam Goodyear and Scott Heslop before Dan Taylor claimed a late consolation.
Coxhoe Athletic are now four points in front of Hartlepool after they defeated Sunderland West End with two goals from Adam Strong.
Jarrow just saw off the challenge from Prudhoe Town. Tom Smith gave them an interval lead when he scored on the stroke of half time and midway during the second half a Mark Sagar own goal left Prudhoe with a formidable challenge.
With six minutes remaining, Stephen Forster headed past Jarrow goalkeeper Simon Parker to set up an exciting finale but Prudhoe were unable to produce an equaliser.
Wolviston comfortably defeated Boldon CA when David Johnson converted two penalties. In between, Robbie McIlroy also beat goalkeeper Connor Binney.
Before the game a minute’s silence was observed in memory of Wolviston secretary Ray Mackey who died on Friday aged 50.
Easington Colliery ended with nine men at Seaton Carew and not surprisingly were defeated. With the game goalless after 42 minutes, Brett Gillatt was red-carded. Just before the hour, David Paul fired Easington in front but Sam Cook and Terry Wilkinson quickly retrieved the situation for Seaton.
The Colliers suffered another blow on 77 minutes with the dismissal of goalkeeper Owen Smithies. Paul took over and his first task was to pick the ball out of the net after Luke Naylor converted the resultant penalty.
Jones gave Seaton the cushion of a three-goal lead but to their credit Easington worked hard and were rewarded with a second goal when Dale Spence struck just before the end.