SPENNYMOOR Town returned to form with a bang, with Esh Winning the unlucky visitors to The Brewery field.
The goals flowed from Gavin Cogden (2), Lewis Dodds (2), Keith Graydon and Matthew Tymon.
Moors lead the table by eight points, but nearest challengers Dunston UTS have played four more games. Their hopes of pipping Ainsley’s side look remote after they were held to a draw at Tow Law Town.
Whitley Bay look the best bet to topple Spennymoor from pole position and they stay third following victory at Chester-le-Street where Craig McFarlane, Lee Kerr (pen) and Richard Hodgson all scored.
Newcastle Benfield stretched their unbeaten sequence to 12 games, which includes nine victories, but they have a lot to do if they are to retain the title especially after managing only a goalless draw at Bedlington Terriers.
Ashington are down to fifth after losing to Billingham Synthonia whose matchwinners were Danny Earl and Michael Jameson. Alex Benjamin was the Colliers’ only scorer. Morpeth Town appear marooned at the bottom after losing at Billingham Town who eased their relegation fears with a brace from Jonathan French.
Horden CW also have a mountain to climb but West Auckland Town could well now avoid the drop, although it had seemed inevitable at Christmas.
Mattie Moffat (2) and Stephen Brown were the marksmen at Horden and West, although still in the relegation zone, are now just a point from safety.
West Allotment Celtic took another step towards a mid-table finish with victory over Ryton, who are back in the bottom six. Paul Watson and Dan Hindmarsh struck for Paul Bennett’s team with Dale Burrell replying for Ryton.
Adam Emson, who missed a penalty, and Stephen Turnbull eased Bishop Auckland to victory over Consett and South Shields went down to Penrith whose matchwinner was Willie Paul.
Shildon went nap at the expense of Norton and Stockton Ancients with Steve Johnson (2), Sam Garvie (2) and Martin Houlahan all on target. Jamie Clarke’s penalty was all Norton could muster.
In Division Two, leaders Sunderland RCA claimed a crucial victory over fourth-top Stokesley who hadn’t tasted defeat since October.
Mark Davison (2) and Scott Richards netted with Brian Stewart and Lev Yalcin replying for Stokesley. Jarrow Roofing had Chris Hepple sent off after just five minutes at Newton Aycliffe but went ahead through Kevin Davison. Aycliffe levelled thanks to Dan Mellanby but six minutes from time Craig Nelson grabbed the winner.
Marske United stay third and have played fewer games than the sides above them. Robert Jones (2), Owen Dixon (2) and Danny Brunskill had them five goals ahead at Darlington RA before Mark Weldon scored a last-minute consolation.
Birtley Town defeated third-from-basement Hebburn Town.
Washington kept a clean sheet for the third successive game when they held Whickham to a goalless draw at The Glebe.