BRAINTREE TOWN drew level with National League South leaders Dartford after an exciting 3-2 victory at home to Eastbourne Borough.

The Iron now have 38 points, like their Kent rivals, who suffered a surprise 1-0 defeat at Hungerford Town.

Hampton and Richmond Borough are third, also on 38 points, after a 5-1 thumping of East Thurrock United while both Havant and Waterlooville and Chelmsford City are a couple of points behind, after victories against Chippenham Town and Gloucester City respectively.

Hemel Hempstead Town and Truro City complete the top seven, with 35 points. The former hit five at Whitehawk while Truro drew 2-2 at Welling United.

With so much at stake at the top of the table, Braintree’s victory was a precious one and they had to do it the hard way, after coming from behind.

Shaun Okojie put Eastbourne ahead after 13 minutes – capitalising on his side’s first chance - but Phil Roberts made it all-square before the break.

The ball fell to him on the edge of the box after a corner and the striker smashed it into the bottom corner through a crowd of defenders.

Roberts then nodded Braintree ahead just after the hour-mark and although Kiran Khinda-John equalised, Billy Crook soon notched a 77th-minute winner from the penalty spot for Brad Quinton’s side.

The Iron had made a bright start and nearly scored as early as the second minute.

However, Karl Oliyide fired narrowly over the bar.

After Eastbourne had edged in front, Samir Bihmoutine went close to equalising after being slipped through but his shot was deflected wide.

Braintree continued to boss proceedings and they nearly forced an own goal after Mahrez Bettache was put through by Roberts.

His cross was almost deflected into the net by a defender.

Roberts equalised and there was more drama five minutes before the break after a fantastic counter-attack resulted in a low cross being put into the box by Roman Michael-Percil.

Roberts stretched and was inches away from making contact.

The ball fell to Bihmoutine, whose shot was blocked on the line – although the offside flag was up anyway.

Braintree nearly nosed in front shortly before the hour-mark Crook whipped in a cross to the far post where Mark Okoye knocked the ball across the face of the net but no-one could latch onto it.

Bettache worked his way into the box and fired a shot at goal that just missed the top corner before Khinda-John equalised for Borough.

However, Crook netted his winner from the spot and then Roberts very nearly completed his hat-trick - completely through on goal but shooting just over.

With no midweek action, Braintree’s next game is at home to Brackley Town next Saturday, in the first round of the FA Trophy.