THE race for the championship could go right to the wire after the three leading contenders again all won.
Table-topping Consett, though, left it perilously late before defeating Billingham Synthonia at Belle Vue Park.
The Synners were twice in front with a brace of goals from James Magowan and the game was into stoppage time before Stephen Johnson clinched the crucial winning goal. Andy Cuthbertson and Gary Ormston were Consett’s earlier marksmen.
Spennymoor Town are second, three points off the top with as many games in hand on the Steelmen. They were comfortable winners at Chester-le-Street and after Leon Carling struck on 12 minutes, Craig Gott converted a 31st-minute penalty.
Newcastle Benfield are equal on points with Spennymoor but have played a game more. They are still very much in contention, though, after defeating relegation-threatened Billingham Town with two goals from Michael Chilton.
Dunston Federation, who before the game announced that Billy Irwin had taken over as manager from Perry Briggs, defeated Tow Law Town with a brace of goals from Andrew Bulford.
“Perry tendered his resignation more than a week ago. We did not want him to leave but he was adamant and we thank him for what he has done and wish him well,” said secretary Bill Montague.
The Fed are fourth and Shildon are immediately below them after hitting Ashington with a 4-0 defeat. The Division’s leading scorer, Warren Byrne, was again in superb form, claiming all four goals.
Whitley Bay still have an outside chance of finishing in pole position following an easy win at bottom-of-the-table West Auckland Town.
Lee Kerr hit a hat-trick which included two penalties and Craig McFarlane also netted, with West’s only reply coming from Danny Richmond. Seaham Red Star are second from the basement after losing at Morpeth Town, for whom Paul Wilary struck a late winner. Chris Rue’s early strike for the Northumbrians was cancelled out by Paul Rodham.
Relegation-threatened Northallerton Town twice led, courtesy of Stephen Allison and Carl Chillingsworth, but Bedlington Terriers emerged victorious thanks to Alex Lawson, Gareth McAlindon and Shaun Nicholson.
Six sides could still go down, with Bishop Auckland, Billingham Town and South Shields just outside the drop zone.
Goals by Anthony Lund and Neil Tarrant earned Sunderland Nissan the points against Bishop Auckland, Billingham Town were beaten by Newcastle Benfield and South Shields crashed to a 4-0 defeat at home to Ryton, whose marksmen were Daniel Smart (2), Gareth McKenna and John Milner. Until recently, West Allotment Celtic were on the fringe of the championship race, but they are now down to ninth after losing to Penrith, for whom Alan Gray and Michael Brown scored in the first 20 minutes.
Norton and Stockton Ancients and Esh Winning are promoted from Division Two. Norton defeated Birtley Town with a brace of goals from Sonny Andrews, and Esh celebrated at wooden spoonists Thornaby as the goals flowed from Tony Hanson, Nicholas Green, Nicholas Martin and Jamie Dowson.
Horden CW need one point from their last two games to return to the top flight. There were only five minutes remaining when Mark Stephenson scored what could turn out to be a crucial goal against Darlington RA.
The Colliers can also win the title if they take six points from the last two games. In this scenario, they would be equal on points with Norton, who have completed the season but presently they have a slightly inferior goals difference to Horden.
On the other hand, if Horden lose their final two fixtures and Sunderland RCA win theirs, then the likelihood is that RCA will be promoted ahead of Horden on goal difference.
Prudhoe Town lost their last game and end second from the basement. Chris Blench gave them an early lead but Guisborough Town won thanks to David Onions and Liam McPhillips.
Washington are now clear of the threat of relegation after securing a vital win at fifth-top Marske United with goals from Willie Crew (2) and Peter Watling.
Jonathan Newton responded for Marske, who until recently were in contention for promotion.