South Shields twice came from behind to win a pulsating encounter with Prescot Cables as they moved three points clear at the top of the Evo-Stik North Division.
The Mariners fell behind in the first minute and probed throughout the remainder of the first half before Lee Mason drew them level.
Prescot went back in front with a counter-attack goal 10 minutes into the second half, and Shields had to show tremendous fighting spirit to bounce back.
Dillon Morse equalised with a tidy low finish and, with a raucous home crowd behind them, the Mariners made it a quickfire double as Mason drove in his second of the game.
Robert Briggs and Jon Shaw also netted in the closing stages to cap a thrilling game and secure a hard-earned three points which Shields will hope prove important in the title race.
They could not have had a more disappointing start in this game, though, as they fell behind within the first minute.
Shields gave the ball away from kick-off and surrendered possession again before the dangerous Michael Monaghan hit an effort from just outside the area which took a deflection and beat Liam Connell.
The hosts’ response in the remainder of the first half was terrific as they laid siege to the Cables goal.
Jamie Holmes – who was a constant threat – just failed to control a ball across the area by Lee Mason, who later found the net himself with a brilliant finish, only to see the goal controversially ruled out for offside.
Chance after chance was created as Shields piled on the pressure.
Darren Lough almost netted his first goal for the club after Julio Arca picked him out with a fine pass, but goalkeeper Ben Barnes forced the left-back’s effort behind.
From the resulting corner, Barnes made a superb stop with his foot to keep out a header from Louis Storey, and he later brilliantly tipped a Robert Briggs free-kick over the bar to keep the home side at bay.
Somehow, Prescot survived a goalmouth scramble five minutes before half-time when Dillon Morse’s header took a deflection and came back off the post to Gavin Cogdon, who rifled a shot which was somehow cleared off the line.
It appeared inevitable that Cables could not hold out for much longer, and Shields’ equaliser finally arrived in the 41st minute.
Briggs curled in a teasing low cross from the left and it evaded everyone before being pushed by Barnes to Mason, who forced it home for his first league goal for the Mariners.
Shields would have been hoping to build on that after half-time, but a swift counter-attack by the visitors put them back in front.
They broke well and James Edgar played the ball to Monaghan, who brought the ball inside onto his right foot and buried an effort into the corner.
The Mariners were again chasing the game, but this time it did not take them as long to find a leveller.
A Briggs corner was cleared but Shields kept the ball alive and it was worked out to Jon Shaw on the left.
He sent a low cross into the box which central defensive partner Morse got on the end of to bundle home his ninth goal of the season.
With a raucous Mariners Park crowd fully behind their team, Shields scored again less than two minutes later as some superb play by Holmes set up Mason, who took a couple of touches in the area before firing low and hard between the legs of Barnes.
The atmosphere was stepped up a notch as the home faithful recognised the significance of this potential victory, and they roared their team on to two more goals in the final stages.
Holmes was again at the heart of Shields’ fourth as he tricked his way past several defenders on the left before laying the ball on a plate for Briggs, who rifled into the corner.
There was still time for Shaw to get in on the act in stoppage time when, after a Prescot defender had headed against the crossbar, he took advantage of the rebound to nod in via the bar.
It was a superb victory for Shields which they will hope pushes them closer to promotion.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Lough, Shaw, Morse, Arca (c), Storey, Briggs, Cogdon (Sullivan 58), Mason (Richardson 67), Holmes (Armstrong 87). Subs not used: Woolston, Ross.
Goals: Mason (41, 66), Morse (64), Briggs (86), Shaw (90+2).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.