Newton Aycliffe’s survival fight was dealt another blow as they stumbled to their 20th defeat of the season against Durham City.
In their first home game for a month, fourth-bottom Newtonians failed to bag what would have been a priceless three points against one of their relegation rivals.
City midfielder Oliver Hotchkiss scored from the penalty spot midway through the first half after Darren Craddock was penalised for tangling with Conor Winter in the box.
The Royal Blues thought they did enough for a point after Fred Woodhouse’s late header was handled on the line – but Aycliffe’s penalty appeals fell on deaf ears.
And Allan Oliver’s troops slumped to a disappointing defeat in front of a new record-low crowd of just 70 at Moore Lane Park.
They started the brighter side as the first effort on target came in the fifth minute when Paul Broom volleyed from the edge of the area but his effort was straight at goalkeeper Rhys Jobling.
The visitors threatened three minutes later as Aycliffe failed to clear a free-kick and ex-Sunderland player Dan Madden fired wide from the edge of the box.
Craddock had a 14th-minute header cleared off the line before John Close fired wide from close range.
And three minutes later the home side produced a good move when Broom’s cross found Woodhouse but the striker can’t make a good connection and the ball flew wide.
Durham took the lead after 22 minutes. After Craddock clashed with Winter, the referee waved play on before his assistant flagged for a penalty, and Hotchkiss slotted home from the spot.
Broom went close in the 35th minute when his run culminated with a shot from the right which was well held by Jobling.
Second-half play was held up when goalkeeper Scott Pocklington needed lengthy treatment after he collided with Winter.
There were chances at both ends in the 58th minute. Danny Lambert cut in from the left and fizzed an effort across the face of.goal before Durham’s Nicky Allen snapshot from 12 yards was well saved by Pocklington.
Woodhouse’s right-sided cross was just too far for Danny Earl in the 66th minute, then Broom went down in the area but the ref and linesman were unmoved.
A minute later, Durham failed to clear a corner, Stuart Owen crossed back in but Close’s flicked header was narrowly wide.
Owen’s 79th-minute free-kick caused havoc in the Durham box, as Hinchley’s effort hit the side netting.
Aycliffe were left seething again with five minutes to go when Woodhouse’s header was handled on the line – the referee confirmed the ball had been unintentionally handled.
But it was too little, too late for the home side.
And after both Penrith and Consett won on Tuesday night, Durham created an eight-point gap between them and Aycliffe with the win.
The Newtonians – who are now 21st in the Ebac Northern League first division, but still eight points clear of the trapdoor – have 11 games left to ensure their top-flight status.
Aycliffe: Pocklington; Gibson, Owen, Craddock, Close; Broom (Hughes, 72), Lambert, Knox (Hinchley, 59), Young; Earl (Reay, 79), Woodhouse. Subs: Oliver, Mellanby.