Michael Richardson scored a well-taken brace as South Shields made it through to the semi-finals of the League Cup – after a dramatic ending at Newcastle Benfield.
Shields were pegged back by the 10 men of Benfield late on from the penalty spot, with Mariners defender Dillon Morse sent off in the incident which led to the spot-kick.
Richardson put them back in front with four minutes left, but almost immediately, Shields conceded a second penalty.
This time, Paul Brayson struck the bar for the hosts as the Mariners survived a real scare to claim a 17th consecutive victory in all competitions.
On a wet pitch which was cutting up in places, Shields struggled to get going in the opening exchanges.
Goalkeeper Liam Connell had to make a fine early save from Thomas McNamee as the home side threatened.
Shields slowly started to gain a foothold, with Wayne Phillips going close before Craig Baxter was denied by a fine stop by Andrew Grainger after being slipped in by Richardson.
It was Richardson who put the Mariners in front on 14 minutes as he flicked the ball past a defender on the inside right of the box before slotting into the bottom corner.
Benfield were always a threat when they went forward, with the experienced, prolific Brayson a thorn in Shields’ side.
He fired a warning sign late in the first half as he flashed an effort not far wide after wriggling his way through.
Benfield made a good start to the second half, and Scott McCarthy sent a decent effort past the post within seconds of the restart.
Brayson looked odds-on to level soon after, but his goal-bound effort was brilliantly blocked by Morse.
Shields started to take control again, and went close twice within a matter of seconds when Phillips had a shot blocked before Louis Storey’s header was cleared off the line.
The game seemed to be in the visitors’ grasp when Benfield defender Stephen Tobin was sent off for two bookings on 66 minutes.
However, that was far from the end of things, with Brayson again going close as he headed inches past the upright after a cross was floated in from the right.
He was again the big threat when a ball was played over the top with 13 minutes to go, and when he went down in the box, the referee adjudged he had been pulled back by Morse before producing the red card for the Shields defender.
Brayson sent Connell the wrong way from the spot to bring the hosts level with a low penalty.
Shields battled well, and went back ahead on 86 minutes when substitute Gavin Cogdon’s brilliant through ball was taken by Richardson, who rounded Grainger and tucked away his second goal of the night.
Almost immediately, though, Benfield attacked again and were awarded a second penalty when the referee ruled Alex Nicholson had handled in the area.
This time, Brayson smashed his penalty against the crossbar, and Shields were able to see out a dramatic finale.
They now progress to the semi-finals, the same stage they have also reached in the Durham Challenge Cup.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Lough, Storey (Stephenson 76), Morse, Arca (c), Nicholson, Smith (Cogdon 68), Shaw, Richardson, Phillips. Subs not used: Parkin, Simpson, Foley.
Goals: Richardson (14, 86).
Sent off: Morse (77).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.