Nelson Bay host a season-defining clash against Singleton on Saturday after keeping their Black Diamond Cup finals hopes alive with a 16-point victory midweek.
The fifth-placed Marlins (16 points) are at home to the Roosters (24) after moving within two wins of the men's top four by defeating Warners Bay in Wednesday night's catch-up game.
Nelson Bay (6.7-43) produced a strong second quarter in accounting for the Bulldogs (3.9-27) at Dick Burwell Oval. Noah Connrick kicked three goals for the Marlins while Dillon Walsh-Hall booted each major for the visitors. The encounter was originally postponed on July 25 because of coronavirus cases in the Port Stephens area.
This result marked back-to-back wins for Nelson Bay, having beaten Wyong Lakes by 89 points last weekend, and a third triumph from their previous five outings.
The Marlins now meet Singleton, Maitland (0), Gosford (8) and Cardiff (14) in the closing rounds before next month's finals series.
A third success in the space of eight days would see Nelson Bay close the gap with Singleton to four points on the competition ladder with three weeks remaining while a loss would extend the margin to 12 and all-but stave off any chance of featuring in the 2020 title race.
Elsewhere in round nine on Saturday and Killarney Vale (24), who sit alongside Singleton in equal fourth spot, welcome second-placed Newcastle City (28) to Adelaide Street Oval with Calvin Bond returning from a one-match suspension for rough conduct. The Bombers also have Damien Hector, Chris Gordon and Harley Beckett back to bolster their squad.
Undefeated leaders Terrigal Avoca (32) meet Wyong Lakes (4), who have Jack Bennett available after a one-game ban for striking.
Cardiff visit Gosford and the Bulldogs (10) back up against Maitland.
In the Black Diamond Cup women's division Warners Bay (4.9-33) overcame Nelson Bay-Port Stephens (1.0-6) on Tuesday night ahead of meeting City. Killarney Vale are minus Angela Jones (suspended) against Cardiff, Terrigal Avoca tackle Wyong Lakes and Maitland are away to the Marlins.
In the Black Diamond Plate women's competition Gosford are missing suspended pair Deanna Gray (kicking) and Lily Mork (umpire abuse).
LADDER (Men): Terrigal Avoca 32; City 28; Killarney Vale, Singleton 24; Nelson Bay 16; Cardiff 14; Warners Bay 10; Gosford 8; Wyong Lakes 4; Maitland 0.
LADDER (Women): Killarney Vale 32; City 28; Cardiff 24; Terrigal Avoca 16; Warners Bay, Wyong Lakes 12; Maitland 4; Nelson Bay-Port Stephens 0.
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