South Shields twice came from behind to win a pulsating encounter with Prescot Cables as they moved three points clear at the top of the Evo-Stik North Division on Saturday.
The Mariners fell behind in the first minute and probed throughout the remainder of the first half before Lee Mason drew them level.
Prescot went back in front with a counter-attack goal 10 minutes into the second half, and Shields had to show tremendous fighting spirit to bounce back.
Dillon Morse equalised with a tidy low finish and, with a raucous home crowd behind them, the Mariners made it a quickfire double as Mason drove in his second of the game.
Robert Briggs and Jon Shaw also netted in the closing stages to cap a thrilling game and secure a hard-earned three points which Shields will hope prove important in the title race.
They could not have had a more disappointing start on Saturday, though, as they fell behind within the first minute.
Shields gave the ball away from kick-off and surrendered possession again before the dangerous Michael Monaghan hit an effort from just outside the area which took a deflection and beat Liam Connell.
The hosts’ response in the remainder of the first half was terrific as they laid siege to the Cables goal.
Jamie Holmes – who was a constant threat – just failed to control a ball across the area by Lee Mason, who later found the net himself with a brilliant finish, only to see the goal controversially ruled out for offside.
Chance after chance was created as Shields piled on the pressure.
Darren Lough almost netted his first goal for the club after Julio Arca picked him out with a fine pass, but goalkeeper Ben Barnes forced the left-back’s effort behind.
From the resulting corner, Barnes made a superb stop with his foot to keep out a header from Louis Storey, and he later brilliantly tipped a Robert Briggs free-kick over the bar to keep the home side at bay.
Somehow, Prescot survived a goalmouth scramble five minutes before half-time when Dillon Morse’s header took a deflection and came back off the post to Gavin Cogdon, who rifled a shot which was somehow cleared off the line.
It appeared inevitable that Cables could not hold out for much longer, and Shields’ equaliser finally arrived in the 41st minute.
Briggs curled in a teasing low cross from the left and it evaded everyone before being pushed by Barnes to Mason, who forced it home for his first league goal for the Mariners.
Shields would have been hoping to build on that after half-time, but a swift counter-attack by the visitors put them back in front.
They broke well and James Edgar played the ball to Monaghan, who brought the ball inside onto his right foot and buried an effort into the corner.
The Mariners were again chasing the game, but this time it did not take them as long to find a leveller.
A Briggs corner was cleared but Shields kept the ball alive and it was worked out to Jon Shaw on the left.
He sent a low cross into the box which central defensive partner Morse got on the end of to bundle home his ninth goal of the season.
With a raucous Mariners Park crowd fully behind their team, Shields scored again less than two minutes later as some superb play by Holmes set up Mason, who took a couple of touches in the area before firing low and hard between the legs of Barnes.
The atmosphere was stepped up a notch as the home faithful recognised the significance of this potential victory, and they roared their team on to two more goals in the final stages.
Holmes was again at the heart of Shields’ fourth as he tricked his way past several defenders on the left before laying the ball on a plate for Briggs, who rifled into the corner.
There was still time for Shaw to get in on the act in stoppage time when, after a Prescot defender had headed against the crossbar, he took advantage of the rebound to nod in via the bar.
It was a superb victory for Shields which they will hope pushes them closer to promotion.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Lough, Shaw, Morse, Arca (c), Storey, Briggs, Cogdon (Sullivan 58), Mason (Richardson 67), Holmes (Armstrong 87). Subs not used: Woolston, Ross.
Goals: Mason (41, 66), Morse (64), Briggs (86), Shaw (90+2).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
South Shields made it 14 goals in three games with a stunning demolition of Workington in the quarter-final of the Integro Cup on Thursday.
The Mariners stormed to a 5-1 victory away to their higher-ranked opponents, with five of the club’s academy starlets in the starting line-up.
They always looked a step ahead of Workington, and goals from Lee Mason, Barrie Smith, Luke Sullivan, Graeme Armstrong and Dan Lowther secured a comfortable passage into the semi-finals.
Shields started well in Cumbria, with Armstrong denied by an impressive save early on, while Aksel Juul also went close.
A deserved breakthrough arrived in the 16th minute when Smith slipped in Mason on the inside-right of the box and he superbly fired into the roof of the net to register his first goal for the club.
With their first shot of the game, the hosts equalised midway through the first half when Tommy Whitehead broke through on the inside-right of the box and squared for Max Brown, who made no mistake from close range.
Shields stayed on top, and were given a golden opportunity to reclaim the lead 12 minutes into the second half when Armstrong was fouled in the area.
Smith took the responsibility and stroked his penalty into the bottom corner via the post to begin another spell of dominance from the Mariners.
Sullivan was brought on immediately after the goal as he made his first appearance for Shields since returning from a two-month loan spell at Bishop Auckland.
He could not have asked for a quicker impact as, with his first touch, he controlled a cross from the left with his chest before brilliantly dinking the ball over the goalkeeper to make it 3-1.
Brown chipped over at the other end, while Workington goalkeeper Aaran Taylor made a fine stop to keep out an Armstrong header, and tipped another effort from the frontman onto the bar.
It seemed a matter of time until Shields sealed their win, and their fourth goal was registered with 13 minutes left.
A ball through the centre was ran onto by Armstrong, who slotted home to score his deserved goal.
There was still time for academy midfielder Lowther to get in on the act.
He played in Armstrong down the right and, although his effort was saved, the ball was kept alive and Lowther saw one shot blocked before rifling the rebound into the roof of the net.
It was as convincing a victory as Shields could have hoped for as they booked their place in the semi-finals.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Woolston, Biwer, O Scott (Kavanagh 67), Shaw (c) (Morse 46), Patterson, Ross, Smith, Lowther, Armstrong, Mason (Sullivan 58), Juul. Sub not used: Guy.
Goals: Mason (16), Smith (pen 57), Sullivan (58), Armstrong (77), Lowther (80).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.
South Shields returned to the top of the Evo-Stik North Division after a five-star performance saw off the 10 men of Ossett Town on Tuesday.
The visitors were up against it from the start and, after Dillon Morse had headed Shields in front, their task was made even harder when striker Nicky Boshell was sent off for a foul on Julio Arca.
The Mariners pushed on from there, with Robert Briggs making it 2-0 from the penalty spot before Gavin Cogdon, Julio Arca and Louis Storey all netted in the second half to complete the job.
Hyde United’s draw at Bamber Bridge allowed Shields to climb back to the top of the league and strengthen their promotion bid.
They were on the front foot from the start against Ossett, and almost took the lead early on when Carl Finnigan’s effort was cleared off the line.
Jon Shaw headed wide from a Robert Briggs free-kick as Shields continued to probe, and their breakthrough arrived in the 14th minute as Arca’s cross from the right was headed in at the back post by Morse.
Boshell was sent off in the 21st minute for an awful challenge on Arca in the centre of the park, and there was no way back from there for Ossett.
It was soon 2-0 when, after Cogdon was fouled in the area, Briggs stepped up to rattle the penalty away and surely make the points safe.
Jamie Holmes and Storey went close before half-time, but a five-minute blitz in the second half ultimately added the gloss to the scoreline.
Cogdon scored Shields’ third as he tapped into an empty net following a fine move, with Darren Lough stroking the ball across the box for him.
Arca was soon in on the act, too, as he reacted quickest when a Briggs drive was parried to find the net.
And then it was Storey who completed the scoring as he diverted another Briggs shot from distance in via his head.
The Mariners could have made the scoreline even more convincing in the closing stages, but ultimately kept the ball and conserved some energy ahead of a hectic period.
They are next in action on Thursday when they travel to Workington in the quarter-finals of the League Cup.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Lough, Shaw (Smith 63), Morse (Mason 71), Arca (c), Storey, Briggs, Cogdon, Finnigan (Richardson 34), Holmes. Subs not used: Woolston,
Goals: Morse (14), Briggs (pen 25), Cogdon (62), Arca (65), Storey (67).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.