South Shields recorded an 18th consecutive victory with a comfortable 3-0 success against Chester-le-Street Town at Mariners Park.
Goals from Jon Shaw, Gavin Cogdon and David Foley were enough as the Mariners closed the gap at the top of Northern League Division One to eight points.
Shields now have a week to prepare for Saturday’s FA Vase quarter-final against Newport Pagnell Town.
They had control of the game throughout against Chester-le-Street, with goalkeeper Liam Connell not being called on to make any saves of note.
Shields could have been ahead as early as the third minute, but when Foley played the ball to Michael Richardson, he could only curl wide from the edge of the box.
Robert Briggs also went close with a free-kick which bounced in front of goalkeeper Jack Wilson, who could only parry it as far as Shaw. However, the ball came at him quickly and he could only flick it onto the roof of the net.
The opening goal arrived on 18 minutes following an impressive short corner routine from the Mariners.
Alex Nicholson received the ball back from Cogdon after playing it short, and when he drifted it in to the back post, Shaw was quickest to react as he pounced to prod it home.
It was almost a quickfire double from the hosts, but after Cogdon nodded a corner into the path of Darren Lough, he could only head wide from close range.
Another opportunity came and went when Cogdon produced a sublime pass to release Foley, but he could not get enough on his shot and Wilson made a routine save.
The Mariners looked set to put daylight between themselves and Chester-le-Street on 37 minutes when Cogdon was fouled in the penalty area.
However, Julio Arca’s central spot-kick did not have enough on it to beat Wilson, who pushed it away to keep the Cestrians in with a fighting chance.
Shields piled on the pressure in the remainder of the first half, but Wayne Phillips flashed an effort not far wide of the top corner, Foley and Briggs were denied by Wilson and no one could convert after an excellent run and cross from Anthony Callaghan.
The Mariners had to wait until 10 minutes into the second half for the second goal to finally arrive.
Another short corner routine did the trick, with Phillips playing the ball to Arca before eventually receiving it back, cutting onto his left foot and sending in a terrific cross which Cogdon headed in from close range. It was Shields’ 100th league goal of the season.
They could have extended their lead further in the minutes which followed.
An exciting counter-attack led by Foley looked certain to end in goal number three, but he slightly over-hit his pass as Callaghan sprinted through.
Within moments, Foley saw a shot beaten away by Wilson, while Lough was denied by a block after the goalkeeper dropped the ball from a corner.
Cogdon showed some individual brilliance to beat a defender on the right touchline, run inside and shoot, but he could not find a way past Wilson.
An excellent team move produced the next chance for substitute Carl Finnigan, but after turning in the area, his shot did not have enough on it to beat the goalkeeper.
Fellow substitute Andrew Stephenson also curled a shot wide before Foley had a say on proceedings.
After receiving the ball on the left touchline, he carried it inside and beyond the defence before composing himself and smashing it past Wilson.
Arca almost added his name to the scoresheet late on, but his free-kick from 20 yards curled just past the upright.
Craig Baxter went close with a minute remaining when he got on the end of an impressive scooped pass from Stephenson, and he could only bundle the ball wide.
Finnigan also had an effort deflected wide as the game ticked into stoppage time, but the points were already wrapped up as Shields continued their fine form.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Nicholson (Baxter 77), Callaghan, Shaw, Lough, Arca (c), Briggs, Phillips, Cogdon (Finnigan 67), Richardson (Stephenson 58), Foley. Subs not used: Storey, Morse.
Goals: Shaw (16), Cogdon (55), Foley (82).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.