Ballymena's Graham Wilson concedes the Private Greens League Division One title battle is now a ‘two-horse race’.
The Sky Blues hardened their challenge with an impressive six points (71-68) home win over Falls on Saturday — a defeat that tossed the Belfast side out of the equation.
Relentless Belmont still lead the way, four points clear of the Braidmen — but both sides are due to go head-to-head at Kincora Avenue when the league programme resumes after the July recess.
Ireland boss Jim Baker was the Sky Blues’ top performer, skipping his rink to a crucial 16-10 win over Mike Merritt. Nigel Robinson and Stephen Coleman also made a significant contribution by beating Peter McGarrity (19-17) and Paul McEwan (21-20).
Battling Falls grabbed a point, courtesy of Paul McVeigh’s 21-15 success over Andy Kyle.
Belmont roared to their 16th successive win of the season — in all competitions – reeling in six points from their 30 shots victory over Willowfield at Gibson Park.
Irish international Robin Horner stole with show by beating Colin Best 30-15.
Jason Kerr, deputising for Roy Battersby at skip, chipped in with a 25-10 win against John Moore, while Stuartie Bennett beat Jim Frazer 24-11.
Jeff McMullan deprived the table toppers of a full quota of points with a battling 23-20 success against Davy Hamilton.
Meanwhile, Bangor easily defeated Dromore (90-63) at Ward Park to reduce Whitehead’s lead to only three points at the top of the NIBA’s Division One table.
Simon Martin, Mark Shannon and Robert Hastings helped the Seasiders to a six points haul, with Sammy Malcolmson spoiling the party by beating Graham McKee (20-19).
Surprisingly, Whitehead dropped two points at home to Lurgan – Bobby Ruddell and Eddie McCourt scoring shock wins over Stephen Moran (18-17) and Phil Gilmartin (26-11).
The East Antrim boys just about managed to make it over the finishing line, courtesy of Marty McHugh’s telling 25-10 victory against Alan Roberts, while James Caldwell grinded out a 21-18 win over Harry Cosgrove.
Results: NIBA Division One: Balmoral 83 (6) Divis 57 (1), Bangor 90 (6) Dromore 63 (1), Lisnagarvey 79 (1) Portadown 82 (6), Whitehead 74 (5) Lurgan 72 (1).
Private Greens League Division One: Ards 53 (0) Dunbarton 83 (7), Ballymena 71 (6) Falls 68 (1), Larne 109 (7) Cavehill 47 (0), Old Bleach 93 (6) Ewarts 65 (1), Ulster Transport 89 (6.5) NICS 64 (0.5), Willowfield 69 (1) Belmont 99 (6).
Provincial BA Progressive Senior League: Brookgreen 70 (0) Portrush 106 (7), Ballymoney 126 (7) Cookstown 41 (0), Coleraine 96 (6) Ballycastle 62 (1), Portglenone 84 (6) Dunluce 67 (1).