South Shields avoided a nightmare before Christmas as David Foley struck a stoppage time equaliser at Lancaster City on Saturday.
The Mariners were staring at defeat when they fell behind in the 87th minute at Giant Axe.
But there was still to be a twist in the tail as Foley rifled home a leveller to move Shields into the Evo-Stik Premier Division’s play-off places.
Graham Fenton and Lee Picton were forced to make one change from the side which defeated Stalybridge Celtic 3-2 a week earlier, with Josh Gillies coming in for Lee Mason, who remained at home after his partner gave birth.
The early stages were difficult for the Mariners and they almost went behind in the third minute when a low cross from the right dropped to the feet of Lancaster striker Thomas Kilifin, whose effort hit the inside of the post before bouncing to safety.
Having survived that scare, Shields gradually gained a foothold in the game and had a good opportunity to open the scoring themselves after a punch by home goalkeeper Jack Simms dropped to the feet of Nathan Lowe, but he skewed wide from 25 yards.
Neither side was able to play flowing football on what was a difficult surface, but there were chances for both teams before the break.
A Robert Wilson corner for the home side was cleared as far as Glenn Steel on the edge of the box, and he arrowed a volley not far wide.
Shields built up some pressure late in the half, with Carl Finnigan having an effort deflected over and Dillon Morse seeing a header saved in a flurry of action.
The best opportunity of the opening 45 minutes came in the first minute of stoppage time as Josh Gillies played Finnigan in on goal, but Simms was out quickly to close down the angle and beat away his shot.
Robert Briggs had the first sight of goal in the second half when he was played in on the inside-right of the box, but he drilled narrowly wide.
Shields looked the more likely team to break the deadlock and went close again when Nathan Lowe was played into a decent position but was denied his first goal for the club by an excellent low stop from Simms.
Lowe had several attempts from distance and almost caught Simms out with one of them from 35 yards, but the goalkeeper scrambled across to push the ball behind for a corner, from which Lowe sent a further effort wide.
The Mariners’ frustration grew as the clock continued to tick towards a second consecutive scoreless draw away from home.
That frustration turned to disappointment three minutes from the end when a free-kick from the left by Lancaster substitute Charlie Russell was flicked on before being forced in by the head of Ben Hudson from close range.
It was a bitter blow for Shields but there was still time for them to offer a response, with five minutes of stoppage time providing a lifeline.
In the second of those, they grabbed the vital equaliser as an effort from substitute Ben Harmison was deflected into the path of Foley and he smashed the ball in first-time to seemingly salvage a point.
However, they were almost dealt the ultimate blow moments later when substitute Luke Jordan got in behind on the right of the box and sent an effort across goal which Connell forced to the feet of Ryan Walker, who somehow hit the bar from close range with the goal gaping.
It was a let-off for Shields, who settled for a point which moved them above Gainsborough Trinity to fifth.
The Mariners are back in action on Boxing Day when they travel to Scarborough Athletic.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Adams (Lough 76), Shaw (c), Morse, Turnbull, Cogdon (Harmison 58), Briggs, Gillies (Foley 68), Finnigan, Lowe. Subs not used: Brown, Mouanda.
Goal: Foley (90+2).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.