South Shields 3 VS 2 Ashington
Gavin Cogdon sparked joyous scenes at Mariners Park as his stoppage time strike secured South Shields a dramatic 3-2 win over Ashington.
The Mariners - who trailed 2-1 at half-time - had pulled back on level terms with a Julio Arca penalty, and dominated the second half.
However, they had to wait until two minutes past the 90 to snatch the three points, with Cogdon showing assurance in front of goal yet again with a low shot into the corner.
The goal led to jubilant scenes in a bumper Mariners Park crowd of 1,373 as Shields retained their second position in Northern League Division One.
They were certainly made to work hard for it by a dogged Ashington side, though, who recovered well after being initially swept aside in the early exchanges.
Shields were without the injured Jon Shaw, Leepaul Scroggins and Danny Carson, but new signing Gavin Caines was available, and started in the centre of defence.
He made an immediate impact, and handed the Mariners the lead within five minutes.
A Dillon Morse cross from the left was headed at goal by Carl Finnigan and parried by Conor Grant to Caines, who fired into an empty net. It was less than 24 hours after he joined on a dual registration deal with Blyth Spartans.
Shields were well on top, and almost went two ahead soon after when a cross from David Palmer was headed towards goal by Robert Briggs before trickling agonisingly wide.
Out of nothing, though, Ashington levelled in the 12th minute as Kyle Downey's sweet free-kick from just outside the area on the right nestled in the top corner.
The goal gave the Colliers great confidence as they settled into the game and began to cause Shields problems.
One of their major threats was Lee McAndrew, and he went close to giving them the lead when a ball over the top played him in, but he was unable to lift his shot over the advancing Liam Connell, who made the save.
McAndrew wasn't denied for long, though, and on 24 minutes, he put the visitors 2-1 up.
A free-kick from halfway was nodded down by Ben Harmison and then volleyed brilliantly into the roof of the net by McAndrew, with Connell left with no chance.
Shields tried to battle their way back into the game, with Robert Briggs hitting an effort wide, but they were unable to get their football flowing against Steve Harmison's side.
In fact, it was Ashington who went closest to scoring again in the first half, as Ben Harmison drilled narrowly wide from just outside the box.
The Mariners were much-improved after the break, but the Colliers had the best opportunity of the opening minutes as McAndrew got in behind and then fired a shot just past the post.
Shields responded by introducing Andrew Stephenson from the bench for his debut, while Cogdon was brought on at the same time.
They began to press their opponents back, and Briggs went close to drawing them level as he curled an effort not far over from 20 yards.
A period of pressure was rewarded just after the hour mark as a Stephenson ball was reached first by Cogdon, who was fouled by the sprawling Grant as the hosts were awarded a penalty.
Arca's spot-kick found Grant's bottom-left corner, despite the goalkeeper's best attempts to keep it out as he guessed the right way.
Things almost got even better for Shields soon after as Stephenson threaded a pass through for Finnigan, who lifted it just over the bar.
Cogdon, meanwhile, was a constant threat to the Ashington defence, and had one snap-shot saved before hitting the rebound over.
Arca was also increasingly influential by this stage as Shields continued to probe, but Grant was in good form as he tipped a powerful shot from Finnigan wide before again denying the striker.
Finnigan was replaced by David Foley with 15 minutes remaining, and within two minutes of his introduction, Grant tipped his overhead kick over the crossbar.
Cogdon had a shot blocked and Foley had one saved, and time seemed to be running out when Stephenson was denied by an excellent save by the foot of Grant with four minutes left.
However, two minutes into stoppage time, the elusive third goal finally arrived.
Arca robbed the Ashington midfield of possession and then clipped a ball into the box for Cogdon, who controlled it with his chest before composing himself and firing into the bottom corner.
It was the hardest-fought of wins for the Mariners, who remain five points behind leaders North Shields ahead of Wednesday's trip to champions Shildon.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Arca (c), David Carson, Morse, Caines, Palmer (Cogdon 52), Smith, Finnigan (Foley 75), Briggs, Phillips (Stephenson 52). Subs not used: Carmichael, Riding.
Goals: Caines (5), Arca (pen 63), Cogdon (90+2).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.