SEAHAM Red Star closed in on the leading quartet in Ebac Northern League Division Two with victory over Birtley Town on Saturday.
Birtley were first to score, courtesy of Callum Hope, but Connor Winter soon restored parity and, after he struck again, Red Star built up a two-goal cushion thanks to David Palmer.
Birtley, though, hit back for Levi Oman to reduce the deficit to a single goal when he scored with a splendid effort, but Jamie Clark’s penalty saw Seaham safely home 4-2.
Leaders Heaton Stannington and third-placed Northallerton Town did not play and North Shields took over second spot with a narrow victory at Whickham, where Brian Smith scored the only goal.
Washington, meanwhile, improved their position near the bottom of the table with victory over Chester-le-Street at the Nissan Sports Complex.
Two goals from James Fairley gave the Newtowners a perfect boost, but when Chester’s Craig Marron converted a 75th-minute penalty it was all to play for.
It was nip and tuck and, in the last minute, Washington made certain of all three points when James Cassidy struck following good work by Fairley.
Ryton and Crawcrook Albion prop up the table after being hit by a five-goal blast at in-form Willington, who have won seven and drawn one of their last eight games. Chris Hardy (2), Adam Pinkney (2) and Jason White were the marksmen.
Esh Winning are just off the basement following a draw with third from bottom Alnwick Town for whom Keith Douglas scored twice after Alex Makin (own goal) and Stephen Parnaby had netted for the home side.
Washington are now up to fourth from bottom and Brandon United are only ahead of them on goal difference. Ricky Phillips and Joe Melvin (2) fired Thornaby into a two-goal lead before Andrew Blackburn responded.