BOTH Darlington clubs closed in on promotion on Saturday, even though Mowden Park had a day off.
The only team who can catch them in National Three North, Rossendale, failed to take a point from a 21-11 defeat at Penrith. So Mowden need only three points from four matches to secure top spot and can clinch it by winning at Waterloo this week.
Darlington won 51-23 at home to Acklam and are 14 points clear in Durham and Northumberland One. They expect to be strengthened by the return of lock Chris Oakley and centre Connor O'Leary for this week's revenge mission at home to Gosforth.
While narrowly losing the away fixture, Darlington had No 8 Kris Ward sent off and suspended for eight weeks. They expected support from Gosforth at the hearing, but it wasn't forthcoming and Ward was so disillusioned he went home to Australia.
Winger David Mackfall took his tally to nine tries in the last four games with a hat-trick against Acklam, two of them coming in the first half hour as Darlington romped into a 22-0 lead.
Full back Aaron McNeilly opened the scoring, finishing a move down the right after four minutes. Mackfall went over in the same corner before Michael Stowe, a late replacement at tight head for Joe Oselton, finished a driving maul.
Mackfall's second was converted by Henry Carver before Acklam kicked three penalties either side of half-time.
Carver ghosted through under the posts after a series of rucks, but the visitors stayed in touch with a converted try.
Their hopes of a comeback were sunk by Mackfall beating two men in a strong run down the right to complete his treble after 57 minutes.
Darlington decided to rest him and his replacement, Matthew Sowerby, scored within a minute, tracking across to support left winger Adam Kibirige.
Acklam's second converted try made it 39-23, but Darlington brought up the half-century when prop Joe Hargreaves finished a rolling maul then centre Andy Pugh cut through the middle to score. Carver converted three of the nine tries.
West Hartlepool moved up to sixth in National Three North when they won 39-6 at home to Morley, who shrugged off their 100-point thrashing at Mowden Park to show plenty of enterprise.
They trailed only 13-6 at the break, and it would have been closer had goal-kicker Simon Bradshaw not failed with three of his five penalty attempts.
It was after Morley tried to run a penalty from their own line that West scored the first try when Gareth Foreman, playing at scrum half in the absence of brother Andy, broke from the base of a ruck. He evaded a tackle and rounded the full-back to touch down.
Fly half Stu Waites converted and added a penalty but Morley reduced the gap to 10-6 before Waites slotted a drop goal just before the break.
West added four second half tries as their pressure wore Morley down. A half break by Waites saw him set up lock Andrew Davies to crash over, then a surge by replacement back row man Stephen Stockdale helped create an overlap for Greg Edwards to score.
As the game opened up the front row men showed their paces. Adam Coates appeared in midfield on a defence-splitting angle and raced over from 35 metres, then Liam Bailey popped up on the right wing and cut inside to finish off the final try.
Middlesbrough won their Yorkshire Cup tie 36-21 at home to Otley but were rewarded with a tough trip to Wharfedale.
Unless the match can be arranged for Easter Saturday (April 7), it will have to be played in midweek.
Wharfedale, who are not quite safe from relegation in National One, might wait to see how they fare at home to Blaydon this week before making any county cup commitments.
Otley sent a young side to Acklam Park and although they had plenty of talent in the backs they were denied the ball in the first half by Boro's more experienced pack.
Boro led 24-0 at half-time through tries by scrum half Peter Wright, flanker Matthew John, hooker Richard Horton and fly half Jack Bircham, who added two conversions.
Wright scored again straight after the break before Boro rang the changes and lost two men to the sin bin for technical offences. Otley scored three converted tries before replacement prop Robbie Small added Boro's sixth.