Willington Quay Saints climbed to third place in the table after a seventh league win in a row as Joe Connor scored twice in a 5-3 win over Red Row at the Barking Dog.
Manager Peter Donkin made two enforced changes with Mark Wilkinson and Andy Breheny replacing Stephen King and Matty Adams, who were both unavailable.
Quay made a fast start and went close twice in the first five minutes as first Dale Johnson headed a Phil Doolan long throw narrowly wide and from Doolan’s next throw veteran Mark Henderson headed off the post as Red Row struggled with the aerial bombardment.
Welfare went close to taking the lead when ex-Newcastle youngster Phil Airey latched onto a long ball before firing a stinging left foot shot that keeper Peter Lowery did brilliantly to keep out one handed at his front post.
Saints right-back Micky Austin then produced a great tackle to stop a certain goal, as the ball flew across the penalty area he just got a touch to put the ball out for a corner with Airey ready to tap home at the back post.
A tense affair looked to be heading into half-time 0-0, but two goals for Quay just before the interval put them well in command.
It was no surprise that both came from Doolan’s long throw. First youngster Connor headed home then two minutes later Henderson’s header somehow slipped between the keeper’s hands to make it 2-0 at the break.
Red Row made a nightmare start to the second period as Quay scored again. A free kick into the box was chested down by Dale Johnson into the path of Connor who made no mistake with his fifth goal of a highly impressive debut season with Saints.
Red Row were handed a lifeline back into the game as they were awarded a penalty for a foul on Airey. Luke Baston sent Lowery the wrong way from the spot.
Quay restored their three-goal lead immediately. Henderson played a great through ball for Ross Thirlaway and the youngster ran on before firing in strong shot that was well saved by the keeper, but Thirlaway reacted quickest to smash the rebound in for his 17th of the season.
Welfare responded with a goal of their own in a frantic spell as Marc Nixon got the better of a tangle with Doolan in the box before bending the ball into the corner to drag his team back in to the game again.
The visitors enjoyed their best spell of the game and with 12 minutes left they pulled another goal back with Nixon grabbing his second after Airey had scuffed a shot across the face of goal leaving him with a tap in from four yards out.
Quay did not have time to worry about blowing their lead as they scored in their next attack. Thirlaway ran down the right and hit a powerful strike that the Red Row keeper could only parry into the path of Breheny who gleefully tapped home for his ninth goal of the campaign.
The last ten minutes went by without Saints being troubled and Connor went close to grabbing a hat-trick at the other end but fired just over after Glen Johnson had played him through.
With seven wins in a row and now ten games unbeaten, Saints travel to Ryton and Crawcrook A on Wednesday before an eagerly awaited trip to Spittal Rovers on Saturday.
Willington Quay Saints: Lowery, M Austin, Wearmouth, D Johnson, Doolan (G Johnson 80), Wilkinson, Young (Charlton 71), Thirlaway, Connor, M Henderson, Breheny.