SUNDERLAND RCA showed just how far they have come in a short space of time when they took championship contenders Shildon right to the wire at Meadow Park on Saturday.
Earlier in the season, Neil Hixon’s side might have been folded after conceding two goals, but second-top Shildon couldn’t relax for a minute.
Craig Price converted a 32nd-minute penalty and Jamie Harwood doubled his side’s lead early in the second half.
RCA hit back and Stephen Jones reduced the deficit after 65 minutes. From then on it was all to play for and the Wearsiders might have grabbed an equaliser when Richard Logan’s goalbound effort was blocked.
Consett stretched their lead at the top of the table to seven points with victory at Jarrow Roofing, where they led through Daniel Craggs, Kieron Megran and Gavin Barton before Lee McMahon claimed an injury-time consolation for the hosts.
Bedlington Terriers were the biggest scorers of the day when they hit Stokesley for six, but it was not until the 44th minute that Stuart Elliott broke the deadlock.
The floodgates opened in the second period. Alex Benjamin rifled in a hat-trick and Stephen Baptist, on loan from Gateshead, struck twice on his debut.
West Auckland Town comfortably won the derby with Bishop Auckland, whose only success was credited to Dan Olusago. Mattie Moffat scored twice and made two goals for Dan Hindmarsh and Stuart Banks.
A lone goal by Paul Stoneman earned South Shields the points at Tow Law Town and despite conceding an early goal to Paul Gardiner, Billingham Town edged West Allotment Celtic courtesy of a brace from Michael Dunwell.
In Division Two Chester-le-Street survived a double blow to defeat Gillford Park. After just two minutes, the Cestrians lost goalkeeper Kyle Barlow, who was replaced by defender Lee Harrison.
Despite having to rearrange their line-up, the Cestrians scored twice just before the interval through Liam McBride and Mark Davison.
In the 65th minute Cestrian Jordan Fraser was sent off, but stand-in keeper Harrison saved the resultant penalty.
Horden CW twice came from behind, but eventually lost 4-2 to Crook Town, whose marksmen were Kevin Devine, Jonathan Davis, Chris Wallace and Andy Appleby.
Craig Garthwaite and Gilberto Chapin struck for Horden, who ended up playing against nine men. Devine was sent off on 38 minutes and Liam Beeston was red-carded after 67 minutes.
Seaham Red Star struck first through Lewis Turnbull, but were soon chasing the game at Birtley Town. Martin Roper hit a hat-trick with Chris Tait also on the mark before Robbie Bird netted a second goal for the visitors.
Newton Aycliffe are powering ahead at the top of the table and command an 11-points lead after defeating Marske United with goals by Stuart Owen and Elliott Gardner.
Guisborough Town are second following victory at Northallerton Town, thanks to David Onions and Austin Johnson.
North Shields made it 10 wins and three draws in their last 13 games to consolidate third place. An Andy Hay hat-trick and a brace from Keith Douglas featured in a five-goal romp at Darlington RA.
Hebburn Town maintained their recent outstanding form and also went nap at home to Morpeth Town. The Nicholson brothers, Dean and Stuart, both struck, with Stephen Foster, Dean Walker and David Dormand also finding the net.
Brandon United led through goals by Daniel Corbett (2) and Stephen Fothergill until the 85th minute, but then had to withstand late pressure from Thornaby, whoscored twice through Billy Gatenby and Mattie Crossen.