Malcolm Morien grabbed a brace for Dunston UTS on Saturday to put the skids under a resurgent Ashington side.
The striker took his tally for the season in league matches to 32 with a goal in each half.
And if his first was an unwanted early shock to the Colliers, his second was more significant as at 3-1 it left the home side with a mountain to climb.
With Ben Harmison switching sports and donning his whites for Ashington Cricket Club, Andrew Bulford came into the starting line-up against his former club.
But it was Dunston who looked bright early on.
Steve Bowey had a shot fielded by home keeper Conor Grant, then in the seventh minute following a build up down the left, Ashington failed to clear, allowing Morien the opportunity to smash a low right foot drive from 16 yards wide of the stopper.
It was midway through the half before the home side really threatened, but it culminated in the equaliser from ex-Dunston captain and midfielder Michael Dixon.
Andrew Johnson charged past two defenders but saw his shot deflected for a corner, and when Kyle Downey floated the ball to the back post Dixon was on hand to head home.
Grant palmed out a header from Morien before the visitors regained the lead seven minutes from the break following a corner on the left.
Daniel Smith crossed and when the ball broke to Aristotte Guerin, he poked it home from six yards.
In time added on, Johnson latched onto a through pass but Dunston keeper Liam Connell came to his side’s rescue by chesting the ball away.
In the opening minutes of the second half, Dixon and Bulford combined to set up Damien Stevens who was eventually shut out at the far post, then Bulford shot wide following a cross from the right.
However, Morien struck a real blow when he got his side’s third. He picked up a cross from the right and from the edge of the area squeezed a low left footer wide of Grant and just inside the post.
Four minutes later, a hat-trick loomed for Morien until his goal bound header was cleared off the line by Downey, then Guerin headed over from an in-swinging corner on the right by Bowey.
Lee Scott, an early second half substitute for the injured Johnson, weaved past two players but looked on as his shot was deflected behind.
Ashington were beset by another problem when Dixon hobbled off with a hamstring injury, and having used all three replacements, the Colliers were forced to play the final 25 minutes with only ten men.
They rallied and from a Grant goal kick Bulford headed on for Stevens who cut across only to fire wide.
James Harmison was also off target with a header, then the centre back let fly with a quickly taken free kick from 30 yards which appeared to be touched over by Connell, although a goal kick was given.
Sandwiched in-between, a cross from substitute Luke Gilhespy led to a shot from Guerin being parried by Grant with the stopper scampering back to scoop the ball off the line.
Then with only seconds remaining on the clock, Morien had another opportunity to score his third but was blocked by Grant.
Ashington: Grant, Taylor, Dunn, Dixon, J Harmison, Grieve (Christensen 62), Harvey (Oliver 51), Downey, Stevens, Bulford, Johnson (Scott 51). Sub not used: Bell.
In midweek, two goals from Ben Harmison and one from Andrew Johnson led to a 3-1 victory for Ashington over relegated Norton & Stockton.
On Thursday, April 28, Ashington host Marske United, then on Saturday, April 30, the Colliers are away to Penrith. On Wednesday, May 4, Steve Harmison’s side travel to face Shildon.