Colin Larkin was the hero as Sunderland RCA progressed into the last 32 of the Buildbase FA Vase for the second successive year.
The former Hartlepool United man bagged all three goals as the Meadow Park side won well, 3-1 away to Northern League First Division rivals Dunston UTS.
RCA got to the last 16 before exiting to Bristol Manor Farm last season and they will hope for a home tie in today’s fourth round draw, with matches to be played on January 7.
Dunston went close before Larkin gave RCA a 12th-minute lead, looping a fine header over keeper Stefan Holden after good work from Stephen Callen and John Butler, who sent over a brilliant cross.
Butler and Callen were both denied as RCA took full control, and a second goal arrived on 35 minutes as Butler delivered again from the left, with Larkin taking the ball down before slamming his shot beyond the keeper.
Callen and Michael Charlton also came close to scoring, while RCA needed keeper Jonathan Carmichael to make two a saves to deny Liam Thear and then survived in a goalmouth melee.
Martin Swales’ side ensured victory when Larkin completed his hat-trick seven minutes from time, driving in a left-footed shot to complete a ‘perfect hat-trick’.
Dunston had the last word, with Michael Pearson hitting a late consolation, but RCA won through.
Shildon progressed with a thrilling 2-1 win at First Division leaders North Shields.
Michael Rae’s eighth-minute header beat Shaun McCafferty to put Shildon ahead, and the Railwaymen doubled their lead on 63 minutes when an Amar Purewal shot from just outside the area kept low and keeper McCafferty could only parry the ball into the net.
Five minutes later, Shildon keeper Nick Liversedge was sent off following an off-the-ball incident involving Dean Holmes. That allowed the Robins to get on top, and sub Denver Morris fired into the top right-hand corner after 75 minutes.
The Railwaymen, though, held firm to reach the last 32.
Shildon manager Gary Forrest said: “We played some great football and it was a game that had everything. My lads dug in, but, to be fair, neither team deserved to lose. However, I am delighted with my lads’ team spirit after we had to battle hard with just 10 men.”
North Shields manager Jon McDonald said: “We were unlucky not to get an equaliser - we were far the better team.”
South Shields cruised to a 3-0 win over Staveley MW from the Northern Counties East League.
New signing Michael Richardson stole the show with two first-half goals on his debut to set the Mariners on their way, the first a 20-yard shot into the bottom corner and the second a tap-infollowing a goalmouth scramble.
Carl Finnigan’s header found Robert Briggs unmarked in the box on 75 minutes and he finished well to get Shields through, watched by a crowd of 808.
Second Division Billingham Town, conquerors of Ryhope CW in the last round, enjoyed a tremendous 2-1 win at Northern Counties East League Division One side Bottesford Town.
Lively striker Craig Hutchinson gave them the lead, when he beat the offside trap and smashed the ball past goalkeeper Aaron Busby after 57 minutes.
Hutchinson again broke clear in the 88th minute and passed to Luke Hogan, who slid home for 2-0.
Josh Nichol instantly replied, but Town held on.
Holders Morpeth Town kept their bid alive by coming through 3-2 at Newton Aycliffe, whose manager, Peter Dixon, was sacked after the match.
John Campbell notched twice for Aycliffe, but Matthew Grieve and a brace from Liam Henderson edged Morpeth home.