Gavin Cogdon netted a superb hat-trick as South Shields came from behind to beat Mossley 5-1 at Mariners Park.
Despite going a goal down early on, the Mariners produced a composed performance and thoroughly deserved their comfortable victory.
Cogdon equalised a minute before the break and set up Carl Finnigan’s 50th goal for the club just three minutes into the second half to settle any home nerves.
Shields then motored on, with Julio Arca putting them 3-1 ahead before Cogdon netted from the penalty spot and then completed his hat-trick late on.
Despite the win, Shields were knocked off the top of the table by Scarborough Athletic, who leapfrogged them on goals scored after thumping Kendal Town 7-0. The Mariners have two games in hand on Boro.
The Mariners started as they intended to go on as they immediately put Mossley under pressure.
Arca fired over in the early stages before visiting goalkeeper Oliver Martin produced an impressive double save to deny Matty Pattison and Jon Shaw at his near post.
Against the run of play, the Lilywhites took the lead in the 13th minute as an Alex Nicholson header back did not quite reach goalkeeper Liam Connell, allowing Liam Ellis to nip in and slide the ball home.
Shields were initially stung by that blow, but soon grew back into the ascendancy, with Pattison heading a decent opportunity wide before Robert Briggs and Nicholson were both denied by fine blocks after excellent work by Cogdon on the right.
Briggs had an even better chance on the half-hour mark when a fine move led to Pattison passing the ball to him eight yards out, but he sent an effort sailing over on the stretch.
The Mariners’ frustration ended a minute before half-time when Dillon Morse sent a superb ball over the top and Cogdon used his pace to outstrip the defence and then fire a left-footed effort across goal which Martin got a foot to, but could not keep out.
Shields took full advantage of their possession in the second half as they truly put Mossley to the sword.
Just three minutes after the restart, they took the lead as Cogdon sprinted across the pitch from the left and picked the perfect moment to lay it off for Finnigan, who sent a superb finish across Martin and into the bottom corner to score his 50th goal for the club.
Mossley responded well, and almost equalised when Connell did well to palm a shot from Ellis away from goal after he was played into an excellent position.
It did not take long for Shields to secure the breathing space they were seeking, though.
Briggs pulled a free-kick from the left low across the box to Arca, who had made a fine run and struck the ball sweetly into the bottom corner to reward the clever routine.
Martin was in impressive form between the sticks for Mossley, and but for him, the margin of Shields’ victory would surely have been greater. One of his fine saves saw him deny Finnigan in the 67th minute after the striker was found by Pattison.
Another flowing move reaped dividends for the hosts with 10 minutes left as Arca combined with Darren Lough on the left and the ball was swept into the box for Pattison, who was fouled. Cogdon took the responsibility and sent Martin the wrong way from the spot.
He almost got his hat-trick soon after, only to see his effort deflected narrowly wide, while Shaw was also thwarted when his header from point-blank range was pushed away by Martin.
Cogdon was to have the final say as he raced onto a flick-on from substitute Graeme Armstrong and beat Martin to it before toe-poking the ball between the goalkeeper’s legs.
There was still time for him to go close to adding his fourth, with Martin denying him from close range.
The damage had long since been done.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Nicholson, Lough, Shaw, Morse, Arca (c), Briggs (Wright 59), Storey, Cogdon, Pattison (Richardson 82), Finnigan (Armstrong 67). Subs not used: Scott, Holmes.
Goals: Cogdon (44, pen 81, 88), Finnigan (48), Arca (55).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.