South Shields moved eight points clear at the top of Northern League Division Two with a comfortable 2-0 win over Chester-le-Street on Saturday.
David Foley and Martyn Coleman grabbed the goals for the Mariners in front of a bumper crowd of 903.
Shields were solid throughout, and built from the back as they won for the 15th time in a row at Mariners Park.
It was also a fourth consecutive league victory as they further tightened their grip on a promotion place.
Chester-le-Street handed them an early scare, though, with Scott Pocklington forced into action with four minutes to tip a free-kick from Craig Marron over the bar.
Shields soon took control, but suffered a blow in the 18th minute when Barrie Smith was forced off, which led to a defensive reshuffle, with replacement John Grey slotting in at left-back, while Michael Turner and Ibby Hassan moved across to centre-back and right-back respectively.
However, they almost immediately went a goal up when a Robert Briggs free-kick from deep was headed across the box by Daryll Hall and then nodded not far over by Foley.
Leepaul Scroggins also sent a shot wide from the edge of the box as Jon King’s side continued to press.
They broke the deadlock on 27 minutes after a move which started from a quick throw-out by Pocklington to Arca.
He and Scroggins combined to find Grey, and the former North Shields man then motored down the field, moving centrally before playing a ball through to Foley, who took it in his stride and finished well on the inside-left of the box. Lewis Teasdale had shown excellent awareness to allow the ball to slide between his legs to find Foley.
Briggs went close to adding a second when his free-kick from just outside the box on the left bounced before being well held by Clayton.
Clayton again thwarted Shields soon after as Coleman raced down the right before pulling the ball across the box towards Teasdale, who looked sure to tap in before the goalkeeper managed to get there first.
As Shields went about extending their lead before half-time, Teasdale was denied by Clayton while Foley shot not far over.
After half-time, the Mariners picked up where they left off, and Hall was denied by a visiting defender as his header was cleared off the line.
Meanwhile, Arca danced his way through on the left of the box before appearing to be fouled, but penalty appeals were waved away by the referee.
The former Sunderland and Middlesbrough midfielder became increasingly influential in the game as the second half progressed, and his excellent lofted ball over the defence was latched onto by Coleman, who was unable to keep his effort down.
Arca also headed wide from another Grey cross, while Briggs went close to making it 2-0 when his low effort from the edge of the box was clawed behind by Clayton.
However, from the resulting corner, the Mariners struck.
Briggs played it short to Grey, and his excellent cross fell invitingly for Coleman in the centre of the box, with the former Penrith striker powering in a header for his fourth goal for the club.
That released any remaining tension for Shields, but the Cestrians were almost handed a lifeline in their next attack, with the league’s top scorer, Scott Heslop, heading just over the bar.
Substitute Christopher Stephenson also missed a big chance as he volleyed wide when a ball from the left fell to him at the back post.
The Mariners were soon back on the attack themselves, though, with a defender heading yet another fine delivery from Grey over his own crossbar, before Briggs almost scored a stunner when he cracked a shot off the bar from distance.
As the game reached the closing stages, Heslop turned on the edge of the box for Chester-le-Street and fired wide.
Foley went agonisingly close to making it three when a through ball from Briggs put him in on goal, but Clayton spread himself well and kept out his low effort with a foot.
The former Hartlepool United frontman also headed wide from a cross by substitute Wayne Phillips, while Mechack Kanda did brilliantly to put Arca through, but he curled one over.
Shields were further boosted with the news that nearest challengers Ryhope CW dropped two points in a 1-1 draw at Billingham Town, meaning their lead at the top was extended to eight points, although Ryhope have a game in hand.
The Mariners are back in action tomorrow as they host Newton Aycliffe in the semi-final of the Durham Challenge Cup.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Pocklington, Smith (Grey 18), Turner, Hassan, Hall, Arca, Foley, Scroggins (c), Coleman (Phillips 83), Teasdale (Kanda 56), Briggs. Subs not used: Young, Ramsey.
Goals: Foley (27), Coleman (67).