South Shields turned in a performance of the highest order as a Robert Briggs hat-trick helped them to a 6-1 thrashing of Ryhope CW at Mariners Park.
Shields recovered from a slow start to dominate the game and claim a sixth consecutive victory, which moved them to the top of Northern League Division One.
After falling behind early on, excellent goals from Jon Shaw and Julio Arca turned the game around, and they then motored on further in the second half, with Craig Baxter notching before Briggs stole the show.
The game was played in front of a crowd of 1,144, which was the third four-figure attendance in a week at Mariners Park.
The large home support was shocked into silence after just two minutes, though, when Ryhope’s James Ellis rattled a free-kick into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.
Shields struggled to get going in the early stages, with a number of passes going astray as they tried to play their way back into proceedings.
They felt in need of some inspiration, and they got just that on 16 minutes.
David Carson played a ball into the feet of Shaw just inside the area, and he rifled a left-foot shot beyond visiting goalkeeper Christopher Rookes and into the top corner.
Within two minutes of that, the Mariners were ahead after another excellent goal.
Again Shaw was at the heart of things as he linked up with Arca, who first drove through the centre before a terrific give and go with Shaw. The striker then played Arca through on goal, and he made no mistake as he rolled the ball into the bottom corner.
The Mariners’ football then begun to flow the way they wanted it to, and they were superb from then on.
They carried the 2-1 lead into half-time, but the scoreline could have been much more comfortable by then.
Chances for Ryhope were rare, but Nathan O’Neill did have half an opportunity to level, only to stab an effort over from a corner.
At the other end, a Wayne Phillips shot surprisingly kept low and almost caught out Rookes, who managed to kick it away.
Joss Carmichael in the Shields goal was rarely called upon, but he did make a good stop from Ellis late in the first half after he rolled his defender to get in on goal.
As half-time grew nearer, though, the home side’s dominance increased, and Shaw went agonisingly close to doubling his tally for the afternoon when Leepaul Scroggins found him on the edge of the box and he rattled a low shot which Rookes tipped wide.
Rookes made an even better save from the striker soon after, clawing his header over the bar after he was found by Phillips, who had bamboozled his defender with some great skill before delivering a superb cross.
Shaw went close again two minutes before the break as Shields again cut Ryhope open, but this time he was off target as he hammered the ball narrowly over.
The momentum did not halt with the half-time whistle, with the Mariners coming out of the blocks extremely sharp in the second half.
Within three minutes of the restart, the third goal arrived after another good move, with Briggs eventually cutting open the away defence with a ball to Baxter, who rifled into the roof of the net from the inside-right of the box.
Briggs himself got in on the act soon after as Shaw nicked the ball off a Ryhope defender before clipping it past the goalkeeper for his team-mate to tap home.
Ryhope continued to possess an attacking threat, and a ball over the top played Harvey Saunders in on goal, but Carmichael was in determined mood and kept out his low effort.
Shields showed greater potency going forward, and added their fifth goal of the afternoon when Barrie Smith curled in an inch-perfect ball from the right which Briggs nodded into the top corner.
Briggs almost completed a 13-minute hat-trick soon after, but his free-kick from outside the area on the left clipped the crossbar.
He did not have to wait too much longer for his third, though, and it came when Louis Storey brought the ball down the left flank before pulling it back to Briggs, who steered it first time into the bottom corner with a brilliant finish.
In the closing stages, Shields were content to retain possession and maintain their five-goal advantage, with an off-target Warren Byrne free-kick the only real chance they had to extend their lead.
The victory left them top of Northern League Division One after both North Shields and champions Shildon failed to win their Saturday games.
The Mariners will aim for a seventh win in a row on Tuesday when they make the tough trip to Marske United, who finished second last season and were champions the year before.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Carmichael, Baxter, Arca (Morse 35), Briggs, Danny Carson, Storey, Smith, Scroggins (c) (Palmer 64), Shaw (Byrne 60), David Carson, Phillips. Subs not used: Parkin, Finnigan.
Goals: Shaw (16), Arca (18), Baxter (48), Briggs (51, 61, 71).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.