The top two teams in the Lancashire and Cheshire AFL premier division are running away from the chasing pack but both Whalley Range and Mellor were given tough tests before they secured wins to go into the festive break on a high.
Leaders Range hosted Old Ashtonians from the lower reaches of the division and looked to have an easy job as Ashtonians only had ten players available for the fixture.
But Ashtonians defied the odds with a great display of determination, heroic defending and some smart attacking that caused Range problems throughout the game.
Craig Hindle gave them a boost as Ashtonians took the lead on 30 minutes with a stunning free kick and they thoroughly deserved to hold on to this until the last five minutes when a speculative shot from Range’s MoM Niall Keogh drew them level.
And it was heartbreak for Ashtonians as John Murphy scrambled home the winner in the dying seconds of injury time to keep them a point clear at the top.
Mellor were also given a challenge from basement team Moston Brook who showed their improved form that restricted Mellor to a 3-1 win.
Reigning champions Rochdalians showed their quality in a 3-0 win over Tintwistle Athletic but it was nip and tuck in the other two games.
They both ended with 4-3 scorelines in favour of Parrs Wood Celtic over High Lane and South Manchester at Old Trafford and gorse Hill with Clay Murray (three) and Jay Rushton providing the goals for South.
Rest of the action: Trafford shock Signol
Division one leaders Signol Athletic had a chance to extend their lead over main challengers Moorside Rangers as they entertained in-form Trafford United.
But Signol had a bit of a hangover after the high of last week’s cup game and were not really at the races.
Trafford were up for the game and were delighted as Signol gifted them four goals.
The only highlight of Signol’s performance was a hat-trick from Scott Norris and the first would have graced any TV replay as a driven corner from Ryan Murphy was given a precise finish from Norris.
This was a well deserved win for Trafford with another extremely good performance from referee Kevin Moore.
Signol still have a three-point lead over Moorside who have four games in hand.
Leading the chasing pack are Milton who defended well to win 3-0 at Bury Ams and Newton Heath who won by the odd goal in five at Didsbury FC.
Waterloo go into the New Year on a high as an action-packed 7-4 win at Hooley Bridge Celtic keeps them six points clear of AFC Oldham, who beat Staly Lions 4-2.
Mellor Reserves have plenty of games in hand on the top two and showed their intent with a big 8-0 win over Parrs Wood Celtic seconds.
A close derby game at South Manchester saw their seconds score the only goal against Chorltonians.
It came from L and C legend Leon Hamilton who atoned for an earlier miss with a stunning strike for the winner.
Another close encounter saw Whalley Range seconds win 3-2 at Spurley Hey.
There was also a tight game between the top two teams in division three with Didsbury FC seconds taking over the lead as they scored the only goals of their game at Salford Vics seconds.
It was also close as Santos won 2-0 hosting Rochdalians seconds and Manchester Polonia shared eight goals in a thriller with Hooley Bridge Celtic seconds.
No problems for Newton Heath seconds as they eased to a comfortable 7-1 win over Cheadle Hulme Athletic.
Chorltonians Rovers rule the roost in division A as they breezed to a big 8-0 win over Tintwistle Athletic seconds.
Whalley Range thirds stay in second place after a pulsating 4-3 win over Hollingworth with the game swinging both ways during 90 hectic minutes.
Dom Wenner (two) and Luke Boon struck for Hollingworth but Range came back for victory with goals from Abdulla Sheiki (two), Abdullah Rahan and Omar Benali.
Mellor thirds stay in the mix after a hard-earned 2-1 win over Signol Athletic seconds.
The other two games in the division brought 4-0 wins for Stoconians seconds over AFC Oldham seconds and Bury Ams seconds at Moston Brook thirds.
Abacus Media seconds stay nine points clear at the top of division B with a 4-1 derby win over Bury Ams thirds.
Old Trafford and Gorse Hill had a 5-3 win at Deans to stay in second place with Tintwistle thirds held to a 1-1 draw at Bedians seconds.
Rochdale Galaxy won an action-packed encounter at Old Strets seconds by 4-3- a score matched by Village Manchester at Milton seconds.
Matt Sproates gave Milton the lead on ten minutes but they could not add to this despite pressing hard.
Defensive lapses then proved costly for Milton as James Wilson drew Village level and a double from Mooney gave them a two-goal lead and he also missed a spot-kick.
Milton came back with a penalty from Joe McNicholas and Sproates added his second to level at 3-3 but a failure to clear their lines cost Milton as Igor Nunes slotted home the winner for Village in injury-time.
With division C leaders Moorside Rangers without a game Spurley Hey seconds took over at the top with a point earned in a 3-2 draw at Oldham Vics seconds.
ACC Stockport shared four goals in their basement battle with Moston Brook fourths and it was also close at Manchester Rovers as they beat Didsbury thirds 2-1.
There were more comfortable wins for Stoconians thirds by 5-2 over Salford Vics thirds and Abacus Media thirds by 3-1 against AFC Oldham thirds.
Bedians thirds are romping away to the division D title as a 3-1 win at Bury Ams fourths kept them 13 points clear of Chadderton Park seconds who beat Chorltonians Athletic 2-1 and Droylsden JFC who won 5-2 hosting Whalley Range fourths.
Manchester Amateur Cup heroes Old Strets thirds kept up their winning streak with a close 2-1 win at Trafford United seconds.