HORDEN remain top of Durham and Northumberland Division One – despite suffering a 21-19 defeat at promotion rivals Darlington.
The agonising loss leaves Horden (63 points) just in front of a clutch of clubs; Durham City (61), Darlington (59), Blyth (57) and Guisborough (56).
Darlington opted to play into the breeze in the first half, yet still got the first points on the board thanks to a penalty.
Horden went ahead when Craig Jones rounded his opposite number to chalk up the first try of the day. Andrew Turner knocked over a great touchline conversion to make it 7-3.
The next score came from young flanker Kieron Forbes, who received the ball in lots of space and raced through the opposition defence to score his third try in two games to give Horden a 12-3 advantage.
Horden lost David Heckles to the sinbin and Darlington knocked over two three-pointers to make the half-time score 12-9.
Darlington then took a 14-12 lead with an unconverted try from a series of forward drives, but Horden hit back, with centre Carl Oliver going over unopposed.
Turner converted to regain the lead at 19-14.
It was proving a great contest and Darlington just edged it when they went over again after their stand-off broke through a hole in the defence, ansd the hosts eventually scored wide out.
In the last minute, Horden won a penalty 40 metres out and Turner opted for the kick at goal, only to see it drop just below the crossbar.