Billingham Synthonia striker Michael Sweet fired a five-goal salvo which sent Ashington tumbling to their sixth defeat in seven matches on Saturday.
Indeed the Colliers had to endure a menu of ‘sweet and sour’ on the day as the goalscorer left his mark with a clinical display of finishing and consequently soured any hopes of the Wansbeck outfit trying to prevent an extension of dominance of home victories by the Synners over the years at the Motif8 Stadium on Teesside.
Yet despite being two goals adrift by the interval, substitute Tony Stephenson gave them renewed hope with a fine finish shortly after the interval.
But yet again, they were exposed on the counter and within the space of five minutes Gary Middleton’s side were looking down the barrel of their 14th reverse of the season.
However, more significantly, and worrying for the Woodhorn Lane outfit, is a league placing which leaves them only 12 points above the drop zone and facing a relegation battle.
As expected, Wayne Buchanan made his first start following his transfer from Morpeth Town whilst keeper Kyle Barnard was handed his league debut with regular stopper Conor Grant unavailable.
Ben Christensen and Marc Walton were both on the bench returning after injury and suspension respectively, and it was ironic that Hebburn-based referee Lindsey Robinson, who red carded Walton against North Shields, was in charge of the contest.
Ashington made a positive start and inside the opening 20 seconds put together a neat move which stemmed from the back with Lance McGlen and also featured Glen Taylor, Andrew Johnson and Steven Shaw until Shaw’s cross was intercepted.
However, disappointment turned to despair for the visitors as they conceded twice in quick succession.
With nine minutes on the clock, Phil Airey lost possession and when Thomas Marron found Sweet, his left footed drive from the edge of the area left Barnard rooted to the spot.
The Colliers were then caught out by a surging run down the right by Robert Bettson and when he pulled the ball back, Sweet was on the mark again with a crisp half volley from 12 yards.
On the half hour, substitute Christensen found Johnson and when he went down the wing and crossed, Glen Taylor’s shot was deflected for a corner.
Barnard tipped away from Christopher Dodds then Marron volleyed over.
At the other end, a speculative effort by Andy Ferrell drifted wide then Glen Taylor was only inches off target with a rasping left footed drive from the edge of the area.
Two minutes after the restart the Colliers were back in the hunt after tenacious work by Stephenson.
The substitute hounded a Billingham defender to win possession then shrugged off the attentions of an opponent before squeezing his shot from an acute angle wide of keeper James Briggs and inside the far post.
But within two minutes, Synners had restored their two-goal cushion.
Ashington were caught short in numbers on the counter and after Kristopher Hughes had surged through the middle, he laid the ball off to the unmarked Sweet who completed his hat-trick sweeping past Barnard.
Minutes later, Barnard’s baptism of fire took another twist when Stephenson lost the ball and when Billingham broke, Hughes was upended by the keeper. Robinson pointed to the spot and Sweet coolly despatched the penalty, sending Barnard the wrong way.
Glen Taylor was not far away following a Ferrell free kick before Marron - without breaking stride – saw his shot superbly pushed away by Barnard before Kyle Oliver cleared another effort off the line.
However, in the 65th minute, Synners went nap following an incisive run by Hughes down the left flank. He cut inside then unleashed a power drive from the junction of the 18-yard box which was touched past Barnard by Sweet.
Buchanan headed wide after a short corner involving Johnson and Oliver before the Colliers added a second.
Substitute Walton supplied a cross from the right to the near post for Glen Taylor to glance into the far corner from six yards.
Ashington: Barnard, Airey (Christensen 29), Davison (Walton 59), Ferrell, McGlen, Buchanan, Oliver, Shaw, Johnson, G Taylor, Downey (Stephenson 46). Sub not used: B Middleton.
On Saturday, January 31, Ashington are at home to title contenders Shildon (3pm) before the Colliers travel to face Bishop Auckland at Heritage Park on Tuesday, February 3, in the third round of the Brooks Mileson Memorial League Cup.
The winners will be at home to either Bedlington Terriers or Guisborough Town in the quarter-finals.