Darlington’s determined fight for survival continued with two early goals paving the way for another crucial victory, seeing the team rise another place in the table.

In early January, a 2-0 loss against Southport in Steve Watson’s second game at the helm left Quakers seven points from safety.

The situation worsened as the weeks went by, the gap increasing to 12 and all hope seemed lost.

But Watson’s team has won 11 of his 20 games in charge, meaning Darlington are now two points ahead of the drop zone, but they will be closely watching the midweek matches when teams below them play games in hand.

As it stands, seven teams are fighting to avoid the one remaining relegation place – third-bottom Banbury are not mathematically down, but effectively they are.

Today’s result at Blackwell Meadows means Southport’s place in the division is still not secure, with Darlington making the perfect start by charging into a two-goal lead inside the first ten minutes.

The first was a goal from nowhere, powerful striker Cedric Main twisting and turning on the edge of the penalty area before finding the bottom corner of the net.

And then came a goal owing much to the blustery conditions, Matty Cornish’s corner curling into net after deceiving goalkeeper Chris Renshaw.

Renshaw redeemed himself by palming wide an Aidan Rutledge effort from inside the penalty area, and at this point Quakers had Southport on the ropes.

But the game became scrappy, the conditions hardly helping, and shortly before half-time the visitors’ Danny Lloyd was not far wide with a 25-yard strike and Danny Philliskirk just missed the target with an effort from similar range following a corner.

Quakers improved early in the second half. Right-back Ben Hedley, with only one goal to his name in over 150 Darlington appearances, almost had a second when he let fly from distance, his left-footed drive being pushed away by Renshaw.

Rutledge was booked for arguing too strongly for referee Declan Brown’s liking that he should have awarded a penalty after a challenge by Adam Anson.

Darlington were soon frustrated again, but had only themselves to blame when Cameron Salkeld put the ball over the bar after substitute Andrew Nelson seemingly laid a goal on a plate.

Quakers goalkeeper Matty Young, on loan from Sunderland, had not been heavily involved, but he was called on to make an acrobatic save to push over the bar a Lloyd free-kick.

He also impressively caught a free-kick hoisted high into the penalty area, relieving the pressure when Darlington were nervy as they inched towards the final whistle, which was met with relief.

Results elsewhere, notably wins for Rushall and Farsley, mean with two games to Darlington are not safe.

Their final home match of the season, at home to Farsley next Saturday, is shaping up to be hugely significant.

Darlington: Young; Hedley, Lees, Lawlor, Barrow; Cornish (Rivers 71), Platt, Hatfield, Salkeld; Main, Rutledge (Nelson 62). Subs not used: Griffiths, Liddle, Curry

Southport: Renshaw; Anson, Flowers, Arthur; Quansah, Hmami, Philliskirk, Lloyd, Doyle; Bennett, Russ (Morgan 64). Subs not used: McMillan, Heath, Lockett, Hockenhull

Referee: Declan Brown

Attendance: 1,778