Sunderland RCA enjoyed the ideal pre-Christmas boost, securing a fine 2-0 home First Division win over Whitley Bay on Saturday.
It took the Meadow Park men just eight minutes to open the scoring, when Stephen Callen, playing on the left wing, produced a classy goal.
He won the ball and raced goalwards, finishing off in style past keeper Thomas Flynn in off the post.
RCA should have doubled their lead six minutes later when striker Liam McBryde worked his way past Flynn and shot goalwards, only for a miraculous clearance over the bar by the diving Nicky Allen to rescue Whitley.
Whitley responded and Alex Kempster had two efforts cleared off the line by alert defenders Adam Preston and Adam McGuinness.
Callen was closed to a second goal for RCA, only for his header, looping in at the far post, to be tipped away by a fine Flynn save.
Bay came more into the game on the restart, and sub Peter Glen-Ravenhill – on after Adam Shanks was stretchered off – twice hit Josh Carmichael’s post.
But the hosts sealed victory in stoppage time when Mark Robinson raced from halfway, beating a defender and finishing well, past Flynn.
It could have been 3-0 but Michael Charlton somehow failed to finish from a yard out as RCA ended the game on top.
Consett won 3-2 at home to Bishop Auckland, thanks to Michael Sweet’s late performance.
Jordan Nellis scored after just four minutes when the ball fell to him following a deflected clearance, but Jeff Smith equalised for Bishops when his shot beat keeper Sam Guthrie.
Nine minutes later, Andrew Johnson beat two defenders and smashed the ball home for a 2-1 Bishops lead, giving Guthrie no chance.
Consett were up against it with only seven minutes left, but Sweet headed in at the far post following a Jordan Lavery cross to level. Then, on 87 minutes, he volleyed home the winner from 10 yards, following a cross from Alex Kitchen.
Shildon had to fight hard for their 2-1 home victory over Newcastle Benfield.
The game was brought to life in the 32nd minute when Matty Robson’s cross found Amar Purewal, whose looping shot went over keeper Andrew Grainger and into the net.
Two minutes later, another Robson cross found Lewis Wing, who fired home a low shot for a 2-0 lead.
Benfield rallied when Anthony Bell brought down Jack Devlin in the penalty area and striker Paul Brayson calmly converted his spot-kick past Peter Jeffries.
In Division Two, Durham City were held 0-0 at Ryton & Crawcrook Albion in an entertaining game and remain sixth.
Bottom club Esh Winning lost again, 3-0 at home to Tow Law Town, for whom Liam Thear, Dean Thexton and Ben Collinson did the damage.
Struggling Crook Town were hammered 6-1 at home by rampant Billingham Town.
Prolific marksman Craig Hutchinson scored in the 14th and 22nd minutes to put the visitors 2-0 up.
Following a goalmouth scramble, David Vincent pulled one back after 37 minutes, but Billingham went to town in the second half, with Chris Dickinson, Elliot Beddow, Hutchinson, completing his hat-trick, and Connor Dunlavey, with a near-post header, completing the scoring.
Lowly Willington picked up a handy point in a 0-0 draw with visitors Thornaby.
Shane Jones and Gary Yates both claimed hat-tricks as Heaton Stannington smashed Darlington RA 8-0, while Hebburn Town were beaten 2-0 by visitors Northallerton, who had Nicky Martin and Stephen Cheeseman on target.
Billingham Synthonia won 3-2 at home to Blyth Town after trailing 2-0 in 26 minutes. Former Ryhope CW striker Conor Winter was the home hero, hitting home a tremendous hat-trick.
Whickham and Bedlington Terriers played out an entertaining 3-3 draw, with Terriers equalising in the 94th minute. Earlier in the game, the referee allowed a “walk in” goal to Whickham, after Bedlington scored following an injury, when they perhaps should have given the ball back.