EAGER for success after missing out on the title over the last two seasons, Darlington got the lucky break champions need and took a major step towards lifting the league crown.

On a day when heavy rain wrecked all but one of the other six premier games, they had the good fortune to beat the weather and their closest rivals, Stokesley, in a hard fought 90 minutes in which they were able to extend their lead as table toppers from 10 to 27 points.

Before the rain came, the hosts had been bowled out for just 92 runs, their lowest of the season. Only James Weighell (31) went on the attack but even though he hit Barnes for 14 in one over it was the only aggression offered. Jon Barnes, who bowled 17 overs, had three wickets for three runs in his opening nine. Doug Mulholland’s five-wicket haul were among the last six to fall.

Darlington were left with a reduced 23 overs, but despite some scares along the way, they won with 14 balls and three wickets to spare. Top batter Liam Coates (27) f set the pace with Matty Wheeler (17 not out) and Mulholland (16 not out) finishing the job.

In the other game to overcome the conditions, Sedgefield had one of their better days when they drew at Marton. Rain killed off the rest of the day’s programme but not before Durham wicket-keeper-batsman, Phil Mustard, on his debut for Marske, enjoyed a faultless innings but just missed out on a century which would have made it a perfect one. He hit 93 out of 236 for 5 against Middlesbrough.

HGary Lynch had the most spectacular innings as second top scorer, hitting all but four runs in boundaries in a quickfire innings of 36. He smashed five fours and two sixes from 25 balls.

Boro’s Callum Buckley was their most successful bowler with two of the five wickets which fell. He completed 11 overs for 36 runs. Middlesbrough faced just two overs before the game was washed out.

Another high scoring first innings was the feature of the game in which Guisborough took 11 points and Hartlepool just seven after the universal downpour left the Priory club’s ground sopping wet while the players were off for the teabreak.

Seaton Carew’s visit to Redcar suffered a similar fate with the hosts getting 11 of the 20 points awarded. Seaton totalled a modest 128 runs but the wicket was bowler friendly and in the short time available for Redcar to reply they lost two wickets for just 15 runs. Sri Lankan Sanjaya Rodrigo was in good form, making 61 – nearly half the team total. Redcar’s professionals turned the screw with Mohammed Zahid (6-28 from 17 overs) taking his season’s tally to 50. Richmondshire’s game with Saltburn (11-0) became the afternoon’s early victim, although Barnard Castle’s home game with Great Ayton was the first to be lost – it was called off during the morning.