South Shields were hit by a late sucker punch as they fell to a 2-1 defeat at Newton Aycliffe on Tuesday.
The Mariners dominated the second half and looked the only side likely to score, but Jordan Laidler’s strike a minute from the end snatched the points for the hosts.
Shields now have one point from their opening two Northern League Division One matches ahead of Saturday’s trip to Whitley Bay.
Things couldn’t have started much worse for Shields as Dennis Knight fired Aycliffe into the lead within six minutes.
Home captain Paul Garthwaite released him into space, and the former Newcastle United youngster slotted the ball into the bottom corner.
It almost got worse for Shields when Knight collected the ball six yards out soon after, but this time he could only divert an effort wide.
Louis Storey missed a huge chance to level it for the Mariners as he was unable to convert a Michael Turner cross, but the away side did get back on terms in the 14th minute.
Turner was again the provider, with his deep cross controlled by Gavin Cogdon before he drilled it home for his second goal in as many games.
Laidler fired a free-kick wide for Aycliffe, but by that stage Shields were in the ascendancy, with David Foley denied by a good save from James Winter before Barrie Smith sliced a shot wide.
David Carson also hit one off target after a strong run through the centre, and the teams went in level at half-time.
After the break, the Mariners upped their game, and got stronger the longer the second half went on.
Turner headed just over from a Julio Arca free-kick, while Smith saw a deep cross come back off the crossbar after deceiving all those in the centre.
Carson had a shot well saved by Winter from the edge of the box as Shields increased the pressure, and he hit another effort over after another great run.
With Aycliffe camped deep inside their own half and Shields probing away, a winning goal for the visitors appeared increasingly likely, but it just would not come.
With two minutes left, captain Leepaul Scroggins let fly from the edge of the area and his shot hit a defender, with huge Shields appeals for handball and a penalty waved away.
Aycliffe then went on a rare foray into the Mariners’ half and, after winning a corner, completed their smash and grab victory.
John Campbell’s corner from the left was deep and fell the way of Laidler, who struck it low into the bottom corner to spark home celebrations.
Shields were left with little time to respond, but Cogdon, Carson and Storey all managed to get efforts in before the end, with all failing to beat Winter.
The defeat leaves the Mariners aiming to kick-start their season at Hillheads on Saturday.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Elliott, Smith, Turner, Storey, Danny Carson, Arca, David Carson, Scroggins (c), Shaw, Cogdon, Foley (Briggs 70). Subs not used: Carmichael, Riding, Morse, Byrne.
Goal: Cogdon (14).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.