DARLINGTON kept their nerve to beat Banbury for the first time ever to move to within a point of safety at the weekend.

After dominating the first half to lead 1-0 at half-time, they were knocked back straight after the break by a fluke equaliser.

Just three months ago, they would have folded in those circumstances, but they’re made of sterner stuff now under Steve Watson and Terry Mitchell, and recovered to record a hat-trick of league wins for the first time since November 2022.

They’re now level on points with Banbury, who are fourth bottom with a marginally better goal difference, and a point behind Rushall. Southport are two points ahead of them in 19th position.

Banbury and Rushall play each other on Tuesday evening, so Quakers might well be hoping for a draw while they’re going for four wins in a row against second-placed Scunthorpe.

Watson, who has now seen his team win six of his 12 matches in charge, said: “It’s been a good week. We’ve played well in all the games, and we’ve found different ways to win.

“I thought we were really dominant in the first half. We controlled the pace of the game, were patient and created a lot. Banbury caused us problems in the second half by playing with more width, and we had to find a different way to win. It was important that we got our foot back on the pedal.

“We created four or five good chances, before we got the all important three points. Terry and I are claiming an assist for the second, because we told Andrew Nelson to follow up Will Hatfield’s penalty!”

Quakers controlled the first half and dominated play, even though they lost midfielder Ben Liddle through injury.

Tai Fleming nearly put a Kallum Griffiths cross into his own goal on 26 minutes, and a minute later, a header by Scott Barrow from another Griffiths cross was cleared off the line.

Cedric Main put his header just off target on 31 minutes, before Quakers took the lead when sub Jarrett Rivers crossed from the left for Andrew Nelson to have a downward header saved. The ball ran loose for Matty Cornish to put it into the roof of the net for his second goal of the season.

Darlington nearly got a second on half-time when Main had a low shot saved by Banbury keeper Jack Harding as they ended a one-sided first half on top.

It was a shock to the system when Banbury levelled at the start of the second half when Aidan Elliott-Wheeler, who was almost on the touchline, crossed deep towards the far post, but instead the ball sailed over the head of stranded keeper Matty Young into the net.

Banbury briefly got on top and looked as if they might take the lead, before Quakers regained the lead from a penalty incident on 64 minutes.

Cornish sent sub Cameron Salkeld running through, and he was upended when Harding mistimed his challenge in the area. Hatfield’s penalty was parried by Harding low down to his left, but the ball ran for Nelson, whose follow up might have been going wide of the bottom-left corner until it took a deflection off Banbury defender Simeon Maye.

Banbury threw everyone forward looking for an equaliser, and there was some great defending, particularly by skipper Tom Platt inside his own area. Elliott-Wheeler nearly sneaked through, but Young saved at the foot of his post.

At the other end, Hatfield hit the post with a left-foot shot, and Cornish, who has just signed a contract with the club, forced Harding into a fingertip save.

Banbury won a corner in stoppage time, and pushed nearly everyone up. However, Quakers quickly got the corner away to Main, who ran at the defence and laid the ball off for Salkeld to run into the box and coolly slip the ball past Harding.