Revitalised Darlington came out on top in their crunch clash in the relegation zone, beating fellow strugglers Banbury to continue their sudden upturn in form.

Before the appointment of Steve Watson and his assistant Terry Mitchell, Quakers had won six of their last 41 league games, a miserable run stretching back to last season, and were seemingly headed for relegation.

They were nine points from safety at one stage, however, that gap is now down to one having now won six of Watson’s 12 games at the helm.

It is a remarkable turnaround and where not long ago there was little optimism, at least among supporters who have endured a largely miserable 12 months, there is now genuine belief that Darlington could survive in the National League North after moving up to level on points with Banbury.

They were not outstanding against Banbury, but they were clearly the better side well worth the points having dominated possession for lengthy spells.

In the first half, Banbury goalkeeper Jack Harding had to be alert to catch the ball looping high into the air off team-mate Tai Fleming, who had diverted Kallum Griffiths’ low cross.

Griffiths posed more danger when he whipped a delivery into the six-yard box that Harding parried away, but with the goal gaping Cedric Main headed wide.

It was not to matter, as within seconds Quakers led 1-0 just after the half-hour mark.

Jarrett Rivers, on as an early substitute for the injured Ben Liddle, delivered a left-wing cross, Andrew Nelson’s header was saved by Harding but Matty Cornish was on hand to slam the ball home.

Harding saved low from Main in stoppage time at the end of a strong 45 for Quakers, yet it was 1-1 just 18 seconds after the restart.

It was a fluke goal scored by Aiden Elliott-Wheeler, his mishit cross from the right sailed over Quakers goalkeeper Matty Young and into the net.

For a spell, play was more open, the visitors venturing forward more often, and after winning a challenge with Cameron Salkeld Banbury defender Harley Giles tried a long-range drive that whistled just over the bar.

But Darlington were back in front on 66 minutes, with a big hand from Banbury.

Salkeld was felled for a penalty by Harding, who saved Will Hatfield’s spot-kick, Nelson was first to the rebound and claimed the equaliser after aiming for goal, though defender Simeon Maye may have got the final touch.

In the closing stages, Hatfield hit the post from 18 yards and Hardin saved from Cornish, but Salkeld sealed victory by keeping his composure and beating Harding when played through by Cedric Main.

Darlington hope to maintain the momentum when they face Scunthorpe United on Tuesday evening at Blackwell.

Referee: Thomas Wilson

Attendance: 1,466

Darlington (4-4-2): Young; Griffiths, Lees, Barrow, Hedley; Cornish, Platt, Hatfield, Liddle (Rivers 19, (Salkeld 61)); Main, Nelson. Subs not used: Lawlor, Lindley, Curry

Banbury United (5-4-1): Harding; Elliott-Wheeler, Giles, Fleming, Woodhouse, Hall; J Johnson, Maye, Maja-Awaesu (R Johnson 87), Darlington; Charles (Hewitt 46). Subs not used: D'Ath, Wood, Whyman