HISTORICALLY Darlington do not do things easily, yet last night they clinched the championship in stunning style, winning 7-1 at Whitby Town.

A draw would effectively have been enough to finish first ahead of Blyth Spartans, but Quakers left no room for doubt by sweeping aside the shell-shocked opposition.

It was 5-0 after only 20 minutes, Graeme Armstrong scoring a ten-minute hat-trick as Darlington put on a show for the thousands of their fans who enjoyed a party atmosphere at the Turnbull Ground.

They were serenading their team as ‘champions’ long before the break having made sure of victory and the club’s third promotion in four seasons on a truly special night.

It means Darlington will be in the National League North next season, the division they would have been in had the Football Association not demoted them to the Northern League four years ago.

The trauma of that year now feels a world away for Quakers, however, who are now on 104 points, Blyth on 99 with one game to play.

Blyth have pushed them all the way, but an astonishing run of 14 wins in 15 games has seen Martin Gray’s men clinch the championship, with last night’s win the most emphatic of the lot.

Stephen Thompson got the first after three minutes, rounding the Whitby keeper after Armstrong's flick-on.

Arguably the team’s most important goal of the season was their 100th this season, and soon they had a 101st with Kevin Burgess on target yet again.

Playing against the club he spent nine years with before moving to Quakers last summer, the centre-back headed home his 11th goal of the season after meeting a Terry Galbraith corner.

Then Armstrong took over.

Adam Mitchell, who had replaced the suspended Chris Hunter at right-back, swung over a cross for Armstrong to thump home a bullet header for 3-0.

At this stage only ten minutes had been played and Darlington supporters were almost as stunned as Whitby’s players.

Blyth had been hoping for a Whitby win to keep their title hopes alive, but Quakers were simply a class above, several classes in fact.

So dominant were they that goalkeeper Peter Jameson did not touch the ball for the first 15 minutes, and his team-mates added a fourth goal on 17 minutes.

Midfielder Leon Scott dribbled beyond a defender on the right and crossed for Armstrong to convert.

Nathan Cartman, desperate to join in the fun, saw a header go just over, leading to keeper Shane Bland going ballistic with his defenders, but he was soon picking the ball out of his net again when it was 5-0.

This time Armstrong stooped to head home against his former club from a Mitchell corner, the celebrations among the players almost muted by this stage so used were they to scoring.

Darlington were going up in style, their proud supporters never having experienced anything like this, more used to going through the mill when seeing their team enjoy success.

Since winning on the final day at Welling in 1990 to clinch promotion from the Conference, Quakers’ fate is never usually settled until the final couple of games.

Twelve months after Welling they also won the Division 4 title on the last day against Rochdale, the Northern League in 2012-13 was not secured until their penultimate match, despite a record-breaking points total, and a year ago it was through the play-offs promotion was achieved.

Even when promotion was not at stake, at Wembley in 2011, Quakers only overcame Mansfield Town thanks to a goal in the dying seconds of extra-time, so last night’s landslide was a welcome surprise for hardened Darlington fans.

An Armstrong diving header went over from a Mitchell cross, leading to a period of respite for poor Whitby, given Darlington supporters time to digest what they were watching. 

Whitby even won a penalty after Gary Brown bundled over Michael Roberts.

However, Jameson, celebrating his 23rd birthday saved Roberts’ spot-kick. It was that sort of night.

Terry Galbraith showed Roberts how it should be done, making it 6-0 with a penalty six minutes before the break after Callum Martin pushed Scott.

The second half, naturally, was less eventful, Whitby seeing a bit more of Jameson’s goal.

David McTiernan, a former target of Gray, was narrowly off target with a first-time shot when meeting a corner.

Dale Hopson, a former Darlington midfielder and on target when the teams drew 2-2 earlier in the season, tried a long-range effort that was inches over Jameson’s bar.

“We want Whitey on,” sang the Darlington fans, desperate to see local hero Alan White made a 201st appearance for his hometown club.

They had to wait a while before he came on, until after Scott added the seventh.

He netted with a well-struck blast from inside the penalty area, and then entered White to a huge cheer from the Darlington fans, many of them fulling the stand behind the dug-outs where Gray struggled to make himself heard above the din.

From a left-wing cross, Hopson headed home a Whitby goal, nothing more than a footnote on an occasion which belong the champions.

Whitby made a plea on the public address system, saying to Quakers fans: “Please do not go onto the pitch. Please. How I’m going to stop you I don’t know, but please do not go on the pitch.”

There was never a chance of his pleas being heard as Darlington’s euphoric fans celebrated the title.