Sunderland West End are keeping the heat on the leading quartet, but they had a close call before defeating Horden CW by the odd goal in three at Welfare Park on Saturday.
The Colliers made a dream start, with Dan Flounders firing past goalkeeper Neil Bussey with only six minutes gone.
Just before the interval, Barry Turton tapped in the equaliser and there were only 10 minutes remaining when Callum Hodgson grabbed the winner for Anth Nelson’s men.
Cleator Moor Celtic were on cup duty, but the other three teams above West End all won.
Leaders Redcar Athletic hit Annfield Plain for six. Amazingly, all the goals were scored in the second half.
Plain comfortably held their own during the opening 45 minutes, but once Sam Webster drilled in a low shot on 48 minutes, the floodgates opened.
Three goals in seven minutes from Andy Jennings (2) and Danny Wray finished off the visitors and Redcar went nap through Chris Atkinson. A minute from the end, Jennings completed an excellent hat-trick, beating goalkeeper Ross Atkinson from a tight angle.
Stockton Town also scored six times on their visit to Whitehaven to stay second, five points off the top with as many games in hand on Redcar.
Kallum Hannah was an early scorer for the Teessiders and nine minutes later Jack Hunter levelled. From then on, though, Stockton dominated and they romped to a 6-1 victory with further strikes by Max Craggs (2), Stephen Roberts, Tom Coulthard and Chris Stockton.
Hartlepool were another side in scoring mode and they leap-frogged Cleator Moor Celtic into third place when they outgunned Seaham Red Star Reserves 5-0.
Pool goalkeeper Callum Hudson was injured before he had touched the ball and was replaced by outfield player Luke Naylor, with John Stephenson coming off the bench.
The changes made no difference and, by the interval, Pool had the points in the bag as Lee Jones, with a brace, Mattie Gardener and Stephenson all beat Red Star keeper Chay Adamson.
The second half was scrappy and the only goal came just past the hour mark with Gardener again on target.
Ashbrooke Belford House jumped two places to sixth with a hard-earned victory at home to Leam Rangers, for whom Johnny Hirst netted the opener on 13 minutes.
Michael Young headed in the equaliser early in the second period and, after 59 minutes, Nathan Burrell drove in what proved to be Belford’s winner.
Anthony Lowerson was Silksworth CW’s man of the match in the 1-1 draw at Richmond Town. He was beaten only once by Scott Ryan, on six minutes, an,d after Jack Murphy restored parity, Lowerson made an excellent save from a Mark Simms penalty.
Later he excelled, denying Anth Harrison, Michael Layfield and Simms, who were all one on one with the goalkeeper.
Despite being ahead three times, Boldon CA had to settle for a share of the points when they ended 3-3 at Prudhoe Town.
Dominic Mossa was Boldon’s first marksman and Derek Waters equalised.
Adam Bell then headed Boldon in front again, only for Waters to level and, following Mossa’s second goal which put Boldon 3-2 in front, Prudhoe managed a scrambled own goal near the end.
Cleator Moor Celtic reached the final of the Shipowners’ Cup when they came from behind to defeat Harton and Westoe CW 2-1 away.
David Bulman’s shot raised the hopes of the hosts, but two goals in four minutes from Adam Telfer and Leigh Dunn saw the Cumbrians home.