South Shields hit North Ferriby United for six as they got the new year off to a perfect start at Mariners Park.
The Mariners made it 11 consecutive home victories in the league this season with a convincing 6-2 win over the Evo-Stik Premier Division’s bottom club.
They also hit the woodwork four times on an afternoon of domination which saw Gary Brown, Carl Finnigan, Robert Briggs and Nathan Lowe get on the scoresheet along with Lee Mason, who continued his fine run of form with another two goals.
Leaders Nantwich Town were beaten 1-0 by Witton Albion as Shields cut the gap at the top to five points, while they have three games in hand.
The Mariners set their stall out from the first minute, with a Briggs effort from distance well saved by Ferriby goalkeeper Lewis Exall.
David Foley was the next to rifle an effort from long range when he drifted in from the right flank before unleashing a powerful left foot piledriver which smashed against the crossbar.
The hosts did not have to wait too much longer for their breakthrough, though, and took the lead in the sixth minute.
Josh Gillies whipped in a superb free-kick from the left and Brown got on the end of it to head the ball into the far corner.
Shields dominated possession and territory and had a number of sights of goal before a big chance fell the way of Mason after a ball across the area by Brown, but his effort was off target.
Mason headed another opportunity narrowly over and Shields then hit the woodwork for the second time when Brown cannoned the ball against the post as he went agonisingly close to scoring his second.
The Mariners deservedly made it two 10 minutes before half-time as Mason saw a shot saved by Exall but Gillies kept the ball alive and returned it to his team-mate, who finished cutely from close range.
Shields struck the woodwork for the third time in the 39th minute as Mason prodded the ball through to Foley and he beat Exall with a dink which hit the bar.
The third goal arrived less than two minutes into the second half, with Gillies the provider again.
His low cross from the right was too good for the Ferriby defence and Mason got on the end of it to notch his eighth goal in four games.
The woodwork was rattled for a fourth time soon after when Blair Adams almost scored the pick of the bunch with a stunning strike from the edge of the box which struck the bar.
Brown and Briggs both went close to scoring goal number four, which finally arrived on the hour mark.
Foley went on a rampaging run down the left before squaring for Finnigan, who made the most of his tap-in as he found the net with his first touch after being brought on as a substitute.
Briggs was the next to get in on the act as he picked out the corner of the net with an inch-perfect free-kick from just outside the box. It was his 50th goal for Shields.
The home side’s levels then slipped as Ferriby scored twice, with Josh Vickers nodding in from a right-wing cross and then notching again with a low effort from the edge of the area.
Shields regained their composure, though, and completed the scoring in the 90th minute as Lowe scored his second goal in as many games by finding the bottom corner from 20 yards.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Brown, Adams, Shaw (c) (Lough 67), Morse, Turnbull, Foley, Briggs (Harmison 76), Mason (Finnigan 58), Gillies, Lowe. Subs not used: Baxter, Mouanda.
Goals: Brown (6), Mason (35, 47), Finnigan (60), Briggs (66), Lowe (90).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.