A superb team performance, arguably their best since the FA Vase final triumph over Coalville at Wembley three years ago, earned Whitley Bay a comprehensive victory over Dunston UTS and maintained their excellent recent form.
To 5-0 away win is in itself an impressive achievement but the Gateshead side have one of the meanest defences in the Northern League and boast an excellent home record.
Ahead of the Wednesday night match they had conceded less than a goal a game, with only one league defeat on home soil all season.
They had also inflicted two damaging defeats at Hillheads, a 5-1 drubbing on the opening day of the season followed by a 2-0 win in December which ended Whitley’s FA Vase hopes.
Just how much times have changed since those disappointing days was clearly evident by the smiles on the faces of players and supporters at the final whistle as they celebrated a memorable evening.
Both teams were below full strength, and with player manager Leon Ryan unavailable, Steve Foster took charge of the Bay side for the first time.
Whitley were also missing Callum Anderson and Tom Bott, and with Paul Chow starting on the bench, Craig Hubbard took the captain’s armband.
There was little sign of what was to come in a fairly even first half and it was Dunston who created the first chance when Dale Burrell’s free kick was pushed over the bar by Mark Cook after just four minutes.
Whitley were competing well and attacking down both flanks, with Jarrett Rivers prominent.
After 20 minutes he tested Liam Connell with a curling shot that the home keeper did well to push wide.
A minute later his cross from the left saw Tony Stephenson stretching for the ball but he was only able to poke it wide of the back post.
Chris McDonald was pushing forward on the left and after 33 minutes his ball into the goalmouth was not far off target.
Whitley were effectively containing the normally dangerous Dunston striker Andrew Bulford and speedy winger Lee McAndrew, and the home side were getting few shots on target.
Craig Smith was twice penalised, harshly in one instance, for challenges not far outside the penalty area as Whitley’s resolute defending repeatedly denied the home side space or time on the ball.
Whitley were steadily gaining the upper hand and creating the better openings as they pressed the Dunston defence back with quick and accurate one touch football.
Three minutes before the interval, Alex Kempster broke away on the left and as he closed in on goal, Connell raced out and brought him down inside the box just as the Bay youngster was about to get a shot on target.
Referee Shane Sugden immediately awarded a penalty as the ball trickled slowly towards the unguarded goal, but surprisingly did not even caution Connell.
In the absence of Chow, Hubbard stepped up and despatched the spot kick with consummate ease to give Whitley a deserved half-time lead.
The expectation, certainly among home fans, was that Dunston would come out for the second half fired up and launch sustained pressure on the Bay defence in an effort to get back on terms, but that was not what materialised.
Indeed, it was Whitley who stepped up a gear and within minutes a Craig McFarlane free kick brought a diving save from Connell, the keeper grateful to push the ball round the post.
Nine minutes after the resumption, Whitley doubled their lead when Kempster’s cross from near the right corner flag was met by a bullet header from Chris Reid barely six yards out leaving Connell helpless as the ball bulged the net.
Three minutes later Whitley might have got a third when Kempster, who was giving full back Luke Gilhespy a torrid time, went past his man before delivering a superb ball across the face of goal for Michael McMullen, whose first time effort looked a certain goal but Connell somehow got his feet to the ball to make a tremendous save.
Whitley were well on top now and after 65 minutes they ended any prospects of a Dunston comeback with an outstanding goal thanks to an overlapping run on the right.
Brad Brooking took the ball forward from close to the touchline in front of the dugouts and after playing it forward to McFarlane, he raced towards the Dunston 18-yard box, meeting McFarlane’s lobbed ball perfectly and taking it in his stride before clipping it over Connell from a tight angle into the roof of the net.
When play switched to the other end, Stephenson was judged to have held back Dan Wilson, but it summed up Dunston’s night when Burrell blazed the free kick high and wide.
Whitley kept on going, hungry for more goals, and they were rewarded with 12 minutes to go when a flowing move saw Rivers released on the right and his cross into the goalmouth was tapped home by Tony Stephenson with the Dunston defence all at sea.
It could hardly have been an encouraging sight for the home side when before the game restarted, Stephenson was replaced by top scorer Chow.
Another free kick for Dunston, this time some 40 yards out, was fired way off target before Whitley once again poured forward.
Hubbard, hugely influential in midfield, played a perfect ball forward to McMullen, who had Chow in support and only Connell to beat, but the keeper got down well to block his shot.
Whitley were not finished yet, and in the 89th minute when Hubbard broke forward, the referee whistled for a Dunston infringement just as the Bay midfielder played substitute Andy Robertson clear on the right.
With the free kick just over 20 yards from goal, Chow made a dummy run over the ball before Kempster unleashed a tremendous shot over the defensive wall and into the net past a motionless Connell to put the icing on the cake for Whitley.
The victory was a triumph for teamwork, with every single member of the Bay side playing their part.
This equalled Whitley’s biggest away win of the season, matching the scoreline against bottom of the table Billingham Town.
It was also Dunston’s heaviest league defeat in 20 years, the five-goal margin equalling their 6-1 defeat by Billingham Synthonia way back in 1994.
Whitley Bay: Cook, Brooking, McDonald, McFarlane, Reid, Smith, McMullen (Burns 86), Hubbard, Stephenson (Chow 79), Rivers (Robertson 86), Kempster. Subs not used: Buzzeo, Foster.