FINALLY, Darlington are putting their reputation as FA Cup underachievers to rest. Last season’s run to the first-round proper represented the club’s best performance since the dark days of administration, and last night’s resounding win in the third qualifying round means Alun Armstrong’s side are now just one win away from repeating the feat.

Quakers were much too good for lower-league Tadcaster Albion, with their 6-1 win a welcome step up from their performance in the previous round when they needed penalties to scrape past Prescot Cables. Tadcaster might be known as the Brewers, but this was not a night when Darlington were ever at risk of being left feeling bitter.

First-half goals from Michael Liddle, Alex Storey and Jarrett Rivers set Quakers on their way, with the excellent Justin Donawa adding two more goals in the second half either side of a second from Rivers.

National League clubs potentially lie in wait at the fourth qualifying round stage, but on this evidence, Darlington will fancy their chances against anyone they come up against. Even allowing for the standard of opposition, this was a big step forward from last weekend’s league outing at Blackwell Meadows.

Having questioned his players’ attitude and character in the wake of that defeat to Kidderminster, Armstrong will have been much happier with events from the off last night.

With Donawa pulling into some dangerous positions on the right and striker Luke Charman dropping off to link midfield with attack, the home side began brightly and would have been ahead after just two minutes had Tadcaster goalkeeper Will Appleyard not got down well to save Donawa’s shot.

With two divisions separating the sides, the gulf in class was apparent throughout, with Darlington’s attempts to get the ball down to construct neat passing moves contrasting sharply with Tadcaster’s more rudimentary approach.

Quakers’ efforts were rewarded with a 13th-minute opener which owed much to some purposeful running by Liddle. The left-back strode out of defence to play a slick one-two with Rivers, and with the Tadcaster defence opening up as he broke into the box, Liddle stroked a neat finish into the bottom corner.

Sean Reid wasted a good chance to double Darlington’s lead when he fired over after controlling Donawa’s cross on his chest, but while the hosts suffered a momentary scare when Jonathan Saltmer spilled a shot from Erico Sousa, forcing Nicky Hunt to hack clear, Quakers effectively settled things with two goals in two minutes towards the end of the first half.

Centre-half Storey claimed the first, hooking home adeptly from close to the penalty spot after Reid nodded a corner into his path.

Less than 60 seconds later, and it was Rivers scoring a third, with the winger cutting in from the left before drilling in a shot that took a deflection to beat Appleyard. Rivers was working in his mother’s paper shop when he became an FA Cup hero for Blyth Spartans by scoring the winner in a televised second-round tie against Hartlepool in December 2014. Win in the fourth qualifying round later this month, and he might get the chance to make some headlines of his own again.

With a three-goal lead to defend in the second period, and with the evergreen pairing of Hunt and Tony McMahon having provided a steadying influence at the back throughout the first half, there was never any chance of Darlington allowing their advantage to slip.

Indeed, it only took two minutes of the second half for Quakers to extend their lead further with the impressive Donawa claiming the goal his bright, industrious performance merited.

Reid’s purposeful run ended in a through ball that sent Donawa breaking clear, and the winger held off a covering defender before slotting a neat finish into the corner.

Four goals became five a couple of minutes later, with Donawa this time turning provider as he broke down the right. His square ball across the area picked out Rivers, who was left with the simple task of turning home his second goal of the evening.

That was really that, although Tadcaster claimed a consolation with 16 minutes left as substitute Jack Crook curled a low shot into the corner.

Donawa had the final word, though, making it 6-1 as he received the ball from Theo Hudson and fired in an angled finish to claim his second.

Darlington (4-4-2): Saltmer; McMahon, Hunt (Laing 53), Storey, Liddle; Donawa, Hedley, Wheatley, Rivers; Reid (Hudson 66), Charman (Amantchi 55).