South Shields fell at the semi-final stage of the Durham Challenge Cup as Newton Aycliffe won a hotly-contested and controversial tie on penalties at Mariners Park.
The Mariners, roared on by a vocal home support, battled throughout a tough game, and saw Julio Arca contentiously sent off during extra-time.
Goals from Arca himself and Michael Turner were not enough for Shields to make it through, though, and when the game went to penalties, Aycliffe prevailed 3-1.
It was the Mariners’ second shootout defeat of the season, having lost by the same method against Morpeth Town in the FA Vase in January.
In often difficult conditions and against an Aycliffe side trying everything to get the better of them, Shields had the better of the early exchanges, with David Foley in particularly threatening mood.
Foley won the penalty from which Arca put the home side ahead in the 17th minute after being brought down on the inside-right of the box. Arca sent the goalkeeper the wrong way from the spot for his ninth goal of the season.
The visitors, though, battled their way back into things, and Dennis Knight fired a warning as to his capabilities from set-piece situations when his free-kick from deep caused problems before Shields managed to clear.
Moments later, though, Aycliffe were awarded another free-kick on the left, and Knight, helped by the wind, swung it in off the back post to leave the Mariners stunned.
The tough visitors went on to have the better of the next stage of the game, with Daryll Hall producing one fine tackle to keep them at bay before Paul Garthwaite fired over.
Stuart Banks also hit a shot wide after cutting inside from the left, while Knight and Matty Moffat were also off target.
Eventually, the tide turned again, and some good hold-up play from Martyn Coleman on the left led to an opening for Lewis Teasdale, but James Winter kept out his effort.
Coleman, Leepaul Scroggins and Robert Briggs also had shots blocked as the sides went in at half-time level.
There was a lively start to the second half, with substitute John Campbell seeing a low shot held by Scott Pocklington at one end before Shields countered, leading to an effort from Ibby Hassan which was deflected over.
A further opportunity came and went when Foley tricked his way through on the right before his low cross struck two defenders and was scrambled to safety.
Out of nothing, though, Newton Aycliffe went ahead when the ball bounced up invitingly for Zak Boagey 30 yards out on the right, and he unleashed a stunning shot which looped into the net.
It took a while for Shields to take control again, with the visitors threatening to see the game off when Campbell had an opportunity on the left, only to fire over.
Arca hammered an effort over from 20 yards, while at the other end Banks went close as he curled one wide.
The Mariners began to pen their opponents back the longer the second half progressed, though, with the crowd right behind them as they searched for an equaliser.
It arrived nine minutes from time when a superb whipped corner from Briggs was met by the head of Turner, who brilliantly guided it into the top corner.
At that stage, Shields were the favourites to go on and win, but Aycliffe managed to halt the momentum, and were dangerous themselves, with Campbell having a low free-kick well cleared by Arca.
Neither side was able to force a winner before extra-time, and in the first minute of the extra period, Shields were indebted to Pocklington for keeping them level after he denied Banks in a one-on-one.
At the other end, Winter did well to clear an Arca shot, while Aycliffe broke, with Banks and Campbell both spurning good opportunities.
The game was on a knife-edge, and Arca sent a low shot just wide, before another golden opportunity for the visitors, with Pocklington this time keeping out Campbell’s one-on-one effort.
Arca had a corner headed just wide in the second period of extra-time before the tie’s most controversial moment arrived eight minutes before the end.
Shields midfielder Arca had been involved in long-running confrontations with Aycliffe players, who appeared to be attempting to rile him using a number of tactics.
On this occasion, when the ball had gone out of play and with both players on the ground, visiting substitute Neil Pattinson appeared to wrap his legs around Arca, preventing him from returning to his feet. This ensued for a number of seconds before Arca forced himself to his feet, pulling his leg away in the process.
The referee saw Arca’s actions as violent conduct and produced a red card, much to the disgust of the player and crowd.
Despite the man advantage, Aycliffe were unable to seriously threaten the Shields goal before the shoot-out, with the closest either side came being when Coleman hit one wide from the edge of the box.
And so it went to penalties, and Shields again suffered heartbreak on the spot-kicks.
Leepaul Scroggins had his effort saved, Warren Byrne’s hit the crossbar and Robert Briggs’ went over as Aycliffe triumphed 3-1 and progressed to face Whickham in the final.
For the Mariners, they now return to the league, and travel to Ryton and Crawcrook Albion on Saturday.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Pocklington, Hassan (Byrne 120), Grey (Ramsey 77), Hall, Turner, Arca, Foley, Scroggins (c), Coleman, Teasdale (Phillips 64), Briggs. Sub not used: Young.
Goals: Arca (pen 17), Turner (81).
Sent off: Arca (112).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.