Port Stephens spinner Jason Eveleigh spun his side into a commanding position against Northern Suburbs dismissing them for just 152 on day one of their two-day encounter.
Eveleigh’s superb bowling effort was the highlight of the round with the other three games evenly poised.
Port were 0/20 in reply and with the Moxey brothers Jarrod and Josh, Craig Hunter, Grant Garland and Matthew Monaghan to call on should secure their second win in a row to start the new year.
Eveleigh was instrumental in their round eight defeat of Raymond Terrace taking an incredible 5-8 for 11 wickets in the past two matches and 21 for the season to date.
Kurri Weston managed to post 208 in their top-two battle against City United at Kurri Central thanks to a vital 70 from teenage all-rounder Isaac Barry and important knocks of 38 by Simon Marshall and 31 by Liam Neild.
Warriors skipper Josh Tuckwell said his side was probably 20 to run runs short of what they needed but were very much in the game.
“We really need to get some early wickets but hopefully Alex (Seamer) and Jack (Sylvester) can get the job done for us,” he said.
“Isaac did a terrific job with the bat they were very important runs along with those from Simon and Liam.”
Tim Baker made a welcome return for City and finished with 4-33 off 13 overs, Michael Heinrich took 3-66 from 21.
City will resume on 2-49 with Ricky Dent on 16 and Matt Latham 10, after Neild and Steve Abel picked up a wicket each.
Their batting line-up will be boosted next week with the return of Matt and Josh Trappel.
A crucial 71-run seventh wicket partnership between Lucas Sargent and Jesse Budden enabled Eastern Suburbs to post a defendable 204 against Raymond Terrace at East Maitland Park.
Unfortunately, Easts lost their final three wickets for just one run after Budden was bowled for 39 by Jason Wells with the score and 203 and Sargent out just one run later also bowled by Wells.
Easts made a strong start with an opening stand of 59 between Jack Bennett and Will Stoneman. Stoneman was out first for 26 and Bennett went for 36 as Easts were one 50+ run partnership short of above par total.
Raymond Terrace were 0/19 at the close of play and will need a far better performance with the bat than their past two outings to make sure of the points.
Western Suburbs and Thornton are evenly poised going into day two with the Thunder resuming on 2/59 chasing Wests 208.
Shannon Threlfo made his first half-century in first grade to be equal top scorer with Tony Fuller on 55. Justin Lanty made 46 as the rest of the Plover batting line-up struggled.
Dan Willis picked up 3/44 for Thornton.