Darlington made it a Quakers dozen as they recorded a deserved 12th successive win with a 4-0 victory at a bitterly cold Bedlington Terriers.
Bedlington’s cause was not helped when they had a man sent off early in the second half, Colin Morton seeing red for a second booking, but Darlington were good value for their 32nd win of the season.
Two goals from David Dowson, a penalty by Terry Galbraith and a last-minute strike from Steven Johnson warmed up the Darlington fans as they enjoyed a win that puts them 26 points clear of Spennymoor Town.
Moors now have nine games in hand as they were playing in the semi-finals of the FA Vase today. They won 3-1 in the first leg at Guernsey so are odds on to reach Wembley, while Quakers are expected to win promotion.
Martin Gray’s men are in top form and today they were on top throughout.
For all of their possession before the break, however, only a Galbraith penalty separated the sides at half-time.
Midfielder Andrew Leeson stopped Stephen Thompson’s shot with his hands and Galbraith blasted the spot-kick high into the net for his fifth successful conversion for the club.
It had been the midfielder’s third attempt at goal as keeper Kevin Morton twice made saves to deny the ex-Dunston man, the second time being to prevent a powerful free-kick.
Bedlington were not completely camped in their own half, though, and Paul Brayson came close to teeing up a goal for strike-partner when he chipped a ball over for Phil Bannister, but it was just an inch or so too high.
Attacking with the wind at their backs, a Stephen Harrison shot was pushed away by Morton and Amar Purewal lifted the loose ball over the bar over the bar under pressure from Chris Carr.
Purewal, recalled to the team at the expensive of the dropped Adam Nicholls, put another chance wide just before the break, heading a Dowson cross off target while centre-back Carr did well to head over a fierce Thompson shot.
The second period began with Colin Morton being sent off for a second bookable offence.
Morton, brother of the Terriers’ goalkeeper and wearing the captain’s after Mark Convery was subbed, had been cautioned at the end of the first half for a strong challenge on Thompson, and eight minutes after the restart barged into Galbraith when the ball was gone.
Faced with a ten-man opposition, Darlington retained possession without too many problems other than the blustery wind which swirled around Welfare Park.
Bedlington were spirited and remained in contention until Darlington got a second goal on 76 minutes.
Dowson got it, shooting on the turn after a low cross by Thompson, who had just switched to the right.
The two-goal lead quickly became 3-0. Within 60 seconds, Dowson took delivery of a cross-field Chris Emms pass and finished first-time for his 17th goal of the season.
With the game won, Gray sent on three substitutes including Jordan Robinson for his debut after joining from Billingham Synthonia. He slotted in at centre-back with Gary Brown going into midfield for the closing stages.
The fourth goal came in the penultimate minute with Johnson bagging his 11th goal of the season, tapping home the rebound after Dowson was denied a hat-trick when Morton parried his shot.
The result means Quakers have kept ten clean sheets in their past 14 games, while they have now won more games than any other season in their history.
There are nine games to play and, now on 97 points, Darlington have a chance to reach 100 next Saturday when they face Sunderland RCA at Heritage Park– Quakers’ first Saturday home game since November.
Goals: Galbraith pen (20, 0-1), Dowson (76, 0-2), Dowson (77, 0-3), Johnson (89, 0-4)
Bookings: C Morton (44, foul), C Morton (53, foul)
Sending-off: C Morton (53, second bookable offence)
Referee: Scott Taylor (Cumbria)
Bedlington Terriers: K Morton, Baxter, Baptist, Carr, Pell, Leeson, Convery (Brittain 41), C Morton, Brayson (Williamson 80), Banninster, Doninger. Subs (not used): K Dobson, C Dobson
Darlington: Bell; Harrison, Brown, Tait, Scott; Emms, Davis, Galbraith (Robinson 81), Thompson (Hedley 78); Dowson, Purewal (Johnson 78). Subs (not used): Turns (gk), Richardson