Easington Colliery 0 VS 1 South Shields
South Shields secured promotion to Ebac Northern League Division One as Michael Turner's header earned them a hard-fought win on a joyous night at Easington Colliery.
In what turned out to be one of the club's most memorable nights for many a year, Shields were backed by an away contingent of hundreds.
They knew a win would be enough to seal promotion, and they had to wait until the 63rd minute for Turner to make the breakthrough.
It paved the way for a deserved victory for the Mariners, who were solid and composed, and always looked to be the side carrying the greater threat, although Easington kept them honest throughout and were well-organised.
With five games to spare, Shields are now assured of Northern League Division One football next season.
They were made to work hard by Easington, though, who have taken numerous scalps this term after winning promotion from the Wearside League last time out.
One of their best victories came against Shields at Mariners Park in September, but the Mariners controlled the game throughout last night.
Easington did, though, create the first opportunity, with Bradley Varga flashing a shot wide from a corner.
Shields almost took the lead within 12 minutes when Robert Briggs' shot from the edge of the box came back off the post, and Martyn Coleman blazed the rebound over.
The former Penrith striker went close soon after when he turned his man and saw his effort deflected just wide, while Briggs also hit a shot not far past the post.
Eight minutes before half-time, a long throw from the right by Ben Riding was dropped by home goalkeeper Kyle Donaldson, and Daryll Hall's volley through a sea of bodies was just kept out.
At the other end, Aidan Heywood sent a shot wide on the break, but the Mariners had more than edged the first 45 minutes.
They stepped things up after the break, and after Briggs and Hall were denied by Donaldson, the deadlock was broken in the 63rd minute.
Briggs delivered a superb corner into the danger zone from the right, and there to head it into the bottom corner was the ever-reliable Turner as the vocal travelling support was sent into raptures.
Coleman could have all but sealed it two minutes later when he was sent through on goal, but Donaldson did brilliantly to save with his foot.
A period of home pressure did not materialise, and Ian Redman almost scored an own goal as Shields harried their opponents.
Riding and Coleman went close in the latter stages, and the final whistle then confirmed the Mariners' promotion to spark scenes of celebration.
It was perhaps fitting that the game was played in the shadows of Peterlee's Eden Lane, where the Mariners played their home matches for two years prior to this season.
They can now look forward to hopefully better times ahead, and could move a step closer to clinching the title tomorrow when they travel to Tow Law Town.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Pocklington, Smith, Turner, Hall, Carson, Riding, Brown, Scroggins (c), Ramsey (Foley 86), Coleman, Briggs. Subs not used: Richardson, Hassan, Hughes, Byrne.
Goal: Turner (63).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.