South Shields were knocked out of the League Cup by neighbours North Shields after paying the price for a poor start.
In front of a huge Mariners Park crowd of 1,349, the home side fell a goal behind within the first two minutes, and did not recover from there.
Within 34 minutes, it was 3-0, and that was a lead the Robins would not relinquish, despite a decent response from the hosts in the second half.
The result brought to an end the Mariners’ ambitions in the knockout competitions this season, and they must now concentrate on completing the job of winning Ebac Northern League Division Two.
Hopes were high at the start of the game, despite South Shields going into it without Julio Arca, Danny Carson, Scott Pocklington, Martyn Coleman and Wayne Phillips, and with a number of others, including Warren Byrne, Ben Riding and Lewis Teasdale, making their way back to fitness.
However, things quickly fell flat for the Mariners, who fell behind within two minutes when they failed to clear their lines, and a ball across the box from the visitors was controlled by Gareth Bainbridge, who touched it past Gareth Young before slotting home.
It was a struggle from there for the home side, and North Shields went close to a second when Ben Richardson curled a free-kick just over the bar.
The Robins weren’t kept out for much longer, though, and went 2-0 up as a ball from the left found its way to Marc Lancaster at the back post, and he made no mistake.
Bainbridge volleyed wide as the away team continued to dominate, and that play was rewarded with a third goal when a lofted ball over the top was brilliantly controlled by Dan Wilson, who had the time and space to pick his spot from close range.
Slowly, the Mariners began to assert themselves more on the game, and one decent opening led to a David Foley shot which he dragged wide.
Foley was heavily involved in most of their bright play going forward, and he had a low cross scrambled clear before getting in behind later in the half, only to be denied by a fine stop from away goalkeeper Chris Bannon.
The South Shields improvement continued into the second half, but the fear was that the damage had already been done.
Some decent chances did come and go after the break, though, the first of which came when Stephen Ramsey’s header was brilliantly tipped onto the bar by Bannon before being scrambled clear.
Just three minutes later, the woodwork was hit again when Robert Briggs’ free-kick struck a defender and then the post.
It felt that a home goal was on its way, but despite two strong penalty appeals and a decent chance for substitute Teasdale, North Shields weathered the storm.
The Mariners did hit the woodwork for a third time, with Michael Turner heading against the bar, and when a goalmouth scramble was cleared after that, it was clear it was not going to be the hosts’ night.
Substitute Byrne had two efforts saved, but the Robins could have wrapped it up at the other end, with Ryan McGorrigan denied by the post and Young doing well to keep out a shot from Lee Mason.
The one bright spot on the evening for South Shields was the news that Ryhope CW had lost 4-2 at home to Easington Colliery in Division Two.
That means the Mariners are eight points clear of the third-placed side, having played the same number of games, and six ahead of second-placed Billingham Synthonia, who have played two more matches.
With just the league to concentrate on now, Jon King’s side will hope to pick up maximum points at Thornaby on Saturday as they attempt to extend their lead at the top.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Young, Hassan (Riding 81), Grey, Hall (Byrne 53), Turner, Briggs, Smith, Scroggins (c), Ramsey, Foley, Sakr (Teasdale 61). Subs not used: Connor, Peter Kane.
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.