HOPES of three North-East teams gracing National One next season rose on Saturday when Tynedale gave themselves a lifeline with a second successive win.
With Mowden Park looking good bets for promotion and Blaydon on course for a second successive top six finish, Tynedale's survival would help to shift the southern bias.
Two weeks ago they were ten points adrift of safety, but they have received some help from Newcastle Falcons and another win at home to fellow strugglers Blackheath this week will provide real momentum.
The Falcons' New Zealand-born centre Danny Barnes made his first appearance in Tynedale's 27-14 win at Wharfedale, who won comfortably at Corbridge in September and began the match in fifth place.
Tries by centre Ben Frankland, winger Hamish Smales and flanker Matt Charters helped Tynedale to a 19-3 lead and winger Sep Visser scored the bonus point try. Gavin Beasley added two conversions and a penalty.
Blaydon hung on for a 19-18 home win against second-placed Rosslyn Park, whose kicker missed what would have been a winning conversion from halfway out on the right with five minutes left.
Lock Chris Wearmouth was outstanding for Blaydon, with fellow forwards Keith Laughlin and Ben Morris close behind.
But the hosts were under pressure for 15 minutes before they started to win some ball and Andrew Baggett made a half break before his precise chip was caught on the full by Simon Barber, who raced under the posts.
Either side of that try Rosslyn Park kicked penalties and they added a converted try from close range to lead 13-7 at the break.
Blaydon dominated up front in the second half and opted to put three very kickable penalties into the corner without success.
But when a clearance failed to find touch winger Tom Jeffery ran it back from just inside halfway and was barely touched until he was tackled as he toppled over the line.
Baggett converted for a 14-13 lead and Micky Ward gambled by taking himself and Matt Hall off with 20 minutes left.
Replacement hooker Fran Entressengle's first touch was to throw the ball into a line-out, from which Rosslyn Park tapped the ball down but it ran loose near the corner flag and Entressengle pounced to score.
It looked like victory would be snatched from Blaydon's grasp when a visiting winger ran 40 metres to score, but the previously accurate Scott Sneddon was off target with the conversion.
The North-East trio in National Three North continue to hover just below halfway, Billingham now leading the way after capitalising on Rossendale's decline with a 27-5 home win.
They led 22-0 at half-time with Steve Smith scoring twice while Lysander Gourbault also touched down and Peter Evans added a penalty and two conversions. Matt Kirby scored the bonus point try.
Westoe were level at 10-10 at home to Stockport but lost 44-17, while Percy Park lost 22-20 to Bradford and Bingley.
West Hartlepool slipped up in the North One East promotion race when they lost a scrappy game 25-21 away to a very committed Malton and Norton side.
West attacked from the outset and Stu Waites kicked a penalty after one minute but the hosts quickly replied with a penalty followed by a breakaway try after a West attack broke down.
After two more penalties by Waites it was 10-9 at the break but Malton scored two tries in the first ten minutes of the second half.
Mowden Park scrum half AJ Smith pushes towards the try line
Jonny Boatman finished a catch and drive and No 8 Sam Miller scored from a five-metre scrum for West, but it wasn't quite enough and they weren't helped by Middlesbrough crashing to a 43-12 home defeat by Huddersfield YMCA.
Boro, who are now next to the bottom, were devoid of any attacking impulse in the first half and conceded six tries to trail 36-0.
Half-time brought a transformation and after two minutes hooker Ashley Kearney scored for Boro, quickly followed by a try for lock Phil Harland. Further chances were squandered before YMCA scored again at the death.
Darlington kept things tight at the top of Durham and Northumberland One by winning 21-19 at home to leaders Horden, for whom Andrew Turner missed a difficult last-minute penalty.
The visiting backs scored two good tries for a 12-9 interval lead before winger Andy Robinson finished a fine move by Darlington.
Horden went back in front with another try, but the scoring was completed after 54 minutes when flanker Kevin Gilroy scored from close range and Mark Baldwin added the conversion to his three penalties.
Durham City remain second, two points behind Horden, after taking a
17-0 lead inside ten minutes on the way to a 22-12 home win against Stockton.
The young Stockton side, showing nine changes, battled valiantly to stay in the game and scored tries through prop Stuart Barrass and full back Danny Phinn.
Guisborough won 26-12 at Gateshead but have slipped to fifth after having five points deducted for fielding a player who wasn't properly registered.