In his programme notes on Saturday, Hebburn's manager lavished praise on Darlington. He must now wish he'd said something similarly complimentary last week instead of provoking Quakers via Twitter.

The morning after Darlington had defeated his side last Wednesday, a since-deleted tweet appeared on Paul Bennett's Twitter page that referred to Quakers as possessing "big time Charlie arrogance and attitude running from top to bottom".

By full-time on Saturday, Darlington supporters were singing "7-1 to the big time Charlies". Touche.

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"I think their manager did my team talk for me," said Darlington manager Martin Gray. "I didn't have to say an awful lot before the game because the players were so upset with the comments that were made. All I had to tell them was to go out and prove what a good team you can be."

Darlington, though, rarely needed to get out of second gear as Bennett's men cemented their place at the bottom of the Division One fair play table.

They were down to nine men by the 25th minute as Hebburn carried on from where they left off at Heritage Park last week when an aggressive approach was highlighted by Dan Kirkup's dismissal.

On Saturday, by contrast, Darlington were disciplined and the win, their fifth in succession, equalled their biggest of the season.

"Coming off Wednesday's game, we knew they were a very physical team who like to compete," said Gray. "There were some challenges made that were very similar to Wednesday.

"For us, it was about discipline. We were concentrating on having 11 men on the pitch at the end and we knew that if we managed to achieve that we would probably get three points.

"You might expect me to say this, but I think the referee made the right decisions early on and I think he stamped his authority.

"The challenges were more than reckless."

Jeff Forsyth's foul on Dowson to concede an 11th minute penalty wasn't reckless, but it was clumsy and earned a yellow.

Terry Galbraith, from nearby Jarrow, put Darlington ahead from the spot, but within 60 seconds Tony Stephenson had equalised as the game got off to a lively start. He seized on hesitancy in the Darlington defence to notch his 13th goal of the season.

That was as good as it got, though, for Hebburn. Within a few minutes, last man Lee Harrison was red-carded for hauling down Dowson as he headed for goal and Craig Gott put Quakers ahead from the resultant, albeit deflected, free-kick.

No sooner had Harrison reached the dressing room than Forsyth had joined him.

He became the sixth Hebburn player to be dismissed in the league following an awful lunge at Stephen Thompson, the same Darlington player that saw Kirkup see red.

Hebburn assistant manager Dean Nicholson said: "The first red card, was he the last man or not? I don't know. The second red card - I can't condone that."

The nine men of Hebburn, however, deserve credit for maintaining their shape at the back and succeeded in stifling Quakers until well into the second half.

More Darlington goals appeared likely as they dominated possession, but for a while they failed to penetrate Hebburn's emergency 4-3-1 set-up.

Gray said: "Playing against nine men can be more difficult than it sounds because they set their stall out to defend and get behind the ball.

"They kept their shape, but we got the ball down, we lifted the tempo and made better decisions in the final third.

"We also got it wider quicker to our full-backs who were great - Stephen Harrison and Leon Scott."

The third goal finally came on the hour, Amar Purewal sliding home a Galbraith delivery. It was the cue for Gray to make three substitutions, Thompson among them. There's a big game against Spennymoor on Friday, no need to take risks.

Chris Emms, one of the subs, played himself into contention for Friday with an encouraging appearance, capped by a tremendous long-range strike to make it 4-1.

Fellow sub Darren Richardson also impressed, but his most noteworthy moment was to be on the receiving end of a robust challenge by Paul Gardiner. With the final whistle in sight, however, the Hebburn midfielder was allowed to stay on the pitch.

Dowson was on the scoresheet next from 18 yards and he then teed up Purewal to turn in his 17th goal of the season before the scoring was completed in injury time when Gott got his second with a curling free-kick after Scott had been fouled.

In the programme, Bennett said: "Any player or manager or coach wants to pit their wits against the best in their league and this season Darlington are proving to be just that."

Second-placed Spennymoor will have something to say about who is the best in the league on Friday when they host Quakers in an all-ticket match at the Brewery Field between the division's two top sides.