South Shields scored twice in a dramatic last three minutes to snatch an important 3-2 victory at Mossley in EVO-STIK North.
The Mariners, who were playing just their second league game since September 23, looked headed for defeat as the hosts entered the final stages with a 2-1 lead.
Barrie Smith’s stunning early opener for Shields had been cancelled out by home captain Tom Dean, before goalkeeper Oliver Martin pulled off a superb penalty save to deny Julio Arca and Jack Tuohy put the hosts in front.
Shields piled on the pressure as the second half advanced and got their reward three minutes from time as a piece of magic from Arca brought them level.
Substitute Jamie Holmes then slid in the winner two minutes later to spark scenes of joy among the travelling faithful as the Mariners brought Mossley’s unbeaten home record to an end.
It was a win which moved Shields level on points with Bamber Bridge at the top of the EVO-STIK North Division table, with three games in hand.
Until the closing stages, it had been a frustrating afternoon for the Mariners at a blustery and sodden Seel Park.
They had enjoyed a fine opening, with a stunning 25-yard strike from Barrie Smith handing them the lead in the seventh minute. The midfielder pounced after a Craig Baxter cross was half-cleared.
The hosts were on level terms before the quarter-hour mark, though, with captain Tom Dean nodding into the corner of the net after a bout of head tennis in the Shields penalty area.
Both teams had chances in the remainder of the half without showing much cutting edge.
Shields goalkeeper Liam Connell did well to deny Adam Latham at his near post, while at the other end, Oliver Martin saved from Gavin Cogdon.
The Mariners had a golden chance to retake the lead 13 minutes before half-time when Dean brought Cogdon down in the area.
However, Martin produced a superb stop to his left to deny Julio Arca and keep the scores level.
Mossley turned the tables soon after.
A routine backpass to Connell took a bad bobble and the Shields goalkeeper missed his kick, allowing Jack Tuohy to pounce and turn the ball home.
Shields were better after the break and gradually began to pen their opponents back.
They were indebted to Connell for keeping the deficit at one, though, as he pulled off a stunning one-handed save when Latham’s effort deflected against Dillon Morse and wrong-footed him.
Michael Richardson fired a good chance wide, while Morse hit the bar and Cogdon was denied by a tremendous point-blank save as Shields turned up the pressure.
The conditions were becoming ever more treacherous, and it looked like the Mariners were running out of time heading into the closing stages.
They then pulled themselves level with four minutes left as Arca – who played like a man possessed in the second half – produced a bit of magic to beat his man in midfield before firing an unstoppable right-footed effort into the bottom corner.
The winner arrived soon after, with Louis Storey heading across goal for fellow substitute Jamie Holmes, who slid in from close range to spark wild celebrations as Shields’ excellent start to the season continued.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Lough (Callaghan 59), Shaw, Morse, Arca (c), Richardson (Holmes 59), Smith (Storey 82), Cogdon, Briggs, Pattison. Subs not used: Norton, Nicholson.
Goals: Smith (7), Arca (87), Holmes (89).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.