South Shields put in arguably their best performance of the season so far as they sealed an impressive 2-1 FA Vase win over Washington.
Northern League Division Two side Shields claimed a sixth straight victory, in doing so beating a side which has not yet been beaten in Division One this term.
It was a victory they thoroughly deserved at Mariners Park, with Andrew Bulford and Jonny Wightman’s goals sealing their passage into the first round of the competition.
Shields knew they were in for a stern test against a Washington side who suffered an agonising FA Cup defeat to Marine four days beforehand.
The visitors started strongly in front of a crowd of 462, and Mark Davison was denied by Shields goalkeeper Scott Pocklington after winning a towering header from a corner.
A long ball forward was later bundled against the post by Joe Walton, while Pocklington produced a superb reaction save from Chris Winn as the Mariners stayed level.
They began to control the game from the 10-minute mark, with the likes of Julio Arca, Adam Sakr and Wayne Phillips among the players who started to make a real impression.
Ben Riding’s long throws were also causing problems for Washington, and one of them which he delivered from the right was nodded not far past the post by Bulford.
A later throw-in from Riding was headed inches wide by Michael Turner, while Sakr’s pace and delivery from the right almost led to a clear-cut opportunity on more than one occasion.
Bulford nearly put the home side ahead when he turned his man just inside the box and then rifled a shot which clipped the crossbar, but Shields did not have to wait too much longer for the opener.
Riding launched a long throw from the left which was won by the head of Turner, and the ball then hit a Washington defender before ricocheting off Bulford and into the net as he claimed his second Mariners goal.
Arca almost created goal number two with a stunning cross from the left, but a visiting defender just managed to get on the end of it before Riding could prod home.
The second goal did arrive on 33 minutes, though, and it was a peach.
Leepaul Scroggins received the ball inside his own half before pinging a superb pass out to the right flank, which Sakr ran onto. He turned back towards his own goal before changing direction again and then delivering a fine cross, which Wightman met flush on the volley to send the ball flying into the roof of the net.
Shields fully merited their two-goal advantage, and they could have gone in at the break even further ahead.
A clipped ball forward by Barrie Smith was headed by Arca and saved by away goalkeeper Jonathan Carmichael, while an excellent break down the right led to a cross by Sakr which Carmichael again did well to cut out.
After half-time, Washington improved, and Pocklington was on hand to make a superb point-blank save from John Butler before turning a Michael Coghlan free-kick around the post.
Sakr was denied by Carmichael at the other end, while Davison could have pulled a goal back when he was released in the box, but his shot took a slight deflection and comfortably cleared the crossbar.
A curled free-kick from Wightman was held by Carmichael, while Coghlan tried his luck with a 40-yard free-kick for Washington, which went narrowly over.
Davison got the visitors back into it eight minutes before the end when he got superb direction on a header, sending it into the bottom corner after being found from a right-wing corner by Coghlan. It was the first goal the Mariners had conceded in 545 minutes of football.
Shields introduced Daryll Hall from the bench to boost the back-line, while Lewis Teasdale was already on at that point for his debut, and Warren Byrne had also been brought on.
Teasdale saw a powerful shot blocked, and Byrne could have sealed the win four minutes into stoppage time when Sakr played him in on goal, but after touching the ball around the goalkeeper, his effort from an acute angle trickled across goal and went just off target.
The lack of a third goal did not matter for the Mariners, though, who were given a tremendous reception from their fans as they made their way back to the dressing room celebrating a sixth straight win.
They will look to make it seven out of seven when Ryhope CW visit Mariners Park for a league fixture on Tuesday, with kick-off at 7.30pm.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Pocklington, Smith, Turner, Galpin, Riding, Arca, Sakr, Scroggins (c) (Teasdale 66), Bulford (Byrne 74), Wightman (Hall 85), Phillips. Subs not used: Young, Curry.
Goals: Bulford (20), Wightman (33).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.