South Shields’ frustrating start to the season continued as they conceded a stoppage time equaliser in a 3-3 draw at Whitley Bay.
The Mariners turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead with seven minutes left when David Palmer put them in front.
However, they could not hold on for the three points, with the hosts scoring from a deep free-kick to take a share of the spoils.
The draw left Shields with two points from their opening three league games of the season, all of which have been away from home.
With Julio Arca unavailable, Palmer came into the Mariners’ side to make his first competitive appearance for the club.
The visitors started decently at Hillheads, and had an early penalty appeal for handball waved away before Gavin Cogdon drilled an effort wide from 20 yards.
He had a glorious opportunity to put Shields ahead soon after as he latched onto a ball over the top from Michael Turner, but he could only hit his effort past the post.
Eventually, it was the hosts who took the lead in the 25th minute. Chris McDonald picked the ball up 30 yards out, and his early strike seemed to surprise Mariners goalkeeper Chris Elliott as it squirmed under him and into the net.
Shields responded well to that setback, and were back on level terms within six minutes.
After Leepaul Scroggins had a shot deflected wide, Palmer’s corner from the right was headed back into his path by Turner. Palmer then guided a sublime ball into the centre which Cogdon headed back across goal and in to claim his third goal in as many games.
The Mariners were unable to build on that in the remainder of the first half, with the dangerous Andrew Robertson almost creating a second goal for Whitley Bay when he impressively beat his man in the area before smashing a cross across goal which could easily have been diverted in.
Six minutes before the break, the home side were back ahead when Shields were caught out by a short corner, and the cross from the right was headed past Elliott by Adam Shanks.
That left the visitors despondent and going into half-time with a deficit, but they returned to the field with renewed purpose.
Assistant manager Lee Picton was particularly vocal with his instructions from the touchline, and the Mariners responded well as they showed more patience in possession and made more of an influence in the final third.
Their bright start to the second period was rewarded when David Carson collected the ball on the inside-left of the box, beat his man and then curled a superb shot into the opposite corner to bring the visitors level.
Shields went close to a second goal in as many minutes when Palmer delivered an impressive cross from the right, and Jon Shaw was just unable to get on the end of it with goalkeeper Tom Flynn beaten.
Louis Storey was the next to threaten, with his header going over the top, while the game then became increasingly bad-tempered, with several incidents near the halfway line causing some controversy.
The Mariners were having much the better of the half, and Cogdon and Scroggins both went close to a breakthrough before Palmer was denied by a superb save by Flynn.
Flynn couldn’t keep Palmer off the scoresheet for long, though, and Shields got the luck which had eluded them with seven minutes remaining.
Carson’s pass from outside the box cannoned into the path of Palmer, who was calmness personified in the box as he slotted it past Flynn to seemingly give the Mariners’ season a kickstart.
However, they were unable to kill the game off, despite threatening a number of times on the break in what was left of the match.
Suddenly, the hosts started to give Shields problems again, and they almost profited from a long throw from the left, only for the ball to eventually bounce into the grateful hands of Elliott.
He held two efforts from distance as the clock ticked beyond the 90 minute mark, but the award of a free-kick to Whitley Bay 10 yards inside the Shields half signalled a warning sign.
The ball was lofted into the box and bounced in the area, and when the Mariners were unable to deal with it, Ross Wilkinson punished them with aplomb with a superb strike into the top corner.
In the end, Shields could have lost the game, which would have been a hammer blow. However, in the last action of the match, another free-kick from a similar position for the hosts was headed towards goal and cleared off the line by Storey, which was the signal for the referee to blow the final whistle.
The draw left Shields on two points ahead of their first home match of the season, against Seaham Red Star, on Tuesday. Kick-off at Mariners Park is at 7.30pm.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Elliott, Smith, Turner, Storey, Danny Carson, David Carson, Palmer, Scroggins (c), Shaw, Cogdon, Foley (Briggs 76). Subs not used: Carmichael, Riding, Morse, Byrne.
Goals: Cogdon (31), David Carson (53), Palmer (83).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.