THERE were more twists and turns in the race for the championship, with only two of the five contestants winning at the weekend.
West Auckland Town were deposed as leaders when they went down at Bedlington Terriers and Whitley Bay’s hopes are now all but mathematically ended following defeat at Sunderland RCA, who are back in pole position.
Dunston UTS are fifth but just eight points separate them from RCA and they have five games in hand on the Wearsiders.
Spennymoor Town are the other side battling to finish top but they conceded two valuable points to Guisborough Town.
Sunderland RCA and Whitley Bay were involved in a seven-goal thriller at Meadow Park.
Paul Robinson and David Pounder fired the Seahorses into a two-goal interval lead but the scores were levelled as James Oates and Mark Davison struck within four minutes. The Bay again went in front with a second goal from Pounder and Davison was on target at the other end. With only five minutes remaining, RCA were awarded a disputed penalty which Joe Walton converted.
FA Carlsberg Vase semi-finalists West Auckland Town lost for only the fourth time and dropped down to second-top, a couple of points behind RCA having played three games fewer than the Wearsiders.
Craig Hubbard, Glen Robson and Tony Shandran were on target for Terriers with Mattie Moffat finding the net for West.
Spennymoor Town remain third and they trailed for 46 minutes at home to Guisborough Town before Stephen Richardson cancelled out Jamie Poole’s 25-yard strike.
Dunston UTS anticipated a difficult game at sixth-placed Newton Aycliffe and manager Billy Irwin, who has steered the side into the last four of the Vase, was spot on with his prediction. Chris Swailes scored the only goal to keep the Tynesiders on course for the double.
At the other end of the table, Jarrow Roofing moved out of the relegation zone with a vital victory at Tow Law Town, who remain second from bottom.
Michael Robson gave the Lawyers an early lead and before the interval Josh Allen equalised.
The turning point came when Tow Law defender Robson was sent off just before the interval.
Roofing then built up a two-goal cushion through Paul Robinson and Michael Hedley.
Mattie Scott threw the Lawyers a lifeline but the home side’s misery was compounded when Ian Davison was also dismissed in the last minute.
Stokesley SC are already relegated and Penrith slipped into the drop zone when they went down at Norton and Stockton Ancients, whose marksmen were Dale Mulligan and James Magowan.
Billingham Town eased their relegation fears with victory at Marske United who were ahead through Jonathan Burton before Jamie Owens bagged a brace of goals.
South Shields are also in the bottom six after losing to Ashington, for whom Marc Walton struck the only goal after half an hour.
Team Northumbria were without a fixture but barring a catastrophe look certain to win promotion from the Second Division.
Morpeth Town strengthened their grip on second place with goals from Stephen Anderson (2) and Michael Hall at Brandon United, and Gillford Park also enhanced their prospects when Dean Douglas and Gavin Barton each bagged a brace in the easy victory over Easington Colliery.