South Shields sealed promotion to the Evo-Stik First Division North and moved to the top of the league with a superb 1-0 win at North Shields on Saturday.
The derby victory was the Mariners’ 31st in a row, breaking the unofficial world record set by Scottish side East Kilbride last year.
It also saw them replace North Shields at the top of Northern League Division One on goal difference, with two games in hand.
David Foley’s 25-yard strike midway through the first half sealed the win, meaning Shields have won promotion for the second season in a row.
They held on in the closing stages to end the Robins’ 18-month unbeaten home record, despite having captain Julio Arca sent off for two bookings with half an hour remaining.
A huge travelling support followed the Mariners across the River Tyne, and they were given huge encouragement ahead of kick-off when David Foley, Andrew Stephenson, Craig Baxter and Carl Finnigan were passed fit to play a part.
It did not take the visitors long to get into their stride in the North Tyneside sunshine, and they could have taken the lead within the first five minutes.
The Mariners won the ball high up the pitch and it was played through to Darren Lough on the inside-left of the box. He drilled an effort across goal which did not go far wide.
North Shields’ main threat came from set-pieces, and their first warning shot was when a Lee Mason free-kick from the left was headed past the post by Curtis Coppen.
In what was an energetic opening to the game, the away side counter-attacked well, and Robert Briggs was presented with an excellent shooting opportunity on the edge of the box. His effort looked to be heading goalwards, but struck team-mate Gavin Cogdon and bounced wide.
There were few more chances of note before Foley lit up the derby in the 23rd minute.
Arca collected the ball from Liam Connell and drove into the Robins’ half before playing it into the feet of Foley, who turned and ran at the defence before unleashing a stunning effort which looped over home goalkeeper Kyle Hayes, who was left stranded.
Foley later admitted his nonchalant celebration was because he had heard a whistle, and feared the referee had ruled the goal out. However, there was no cause for such concern.
The Mariners showed patience as they probed for another breakthrough, and always looked the more likely team to score from open play.
Another impressive move led to a good opportunity for Foley to add a second, with Cogdon flicking the ball into his path. However, from about 10 yards, Foley screwed his effort wide.
The Robins continued to pose a threat from set plays, but the visitors had Connell in fine form between the sticks to repel many of them, in doing so calming those in front of him.
When North Shields did win the first ball from them, there was invariably a Mariners player in the way, as was the case late in the first half when Ryan Carr’s header was blocked.
A second goal for South Shields before half-time would have been a huge bonus, and they went agonisingly close to getting it. Cogdon again did brilliantly to find Foley, who chipped the ball over Hayes and looked all set to celebrate his 31st goal of the season before it was hooked off the line by Marc Lancaster. The ball stayed in play and was retrieved by Cogdon, who took a touch and fired into the side netting.
There was plenty to build on for the Mariners in the second half, and they remained in control in the first 15 minutes of it.
They almost added to their lead when a cross from the left by Lough was headed powerfully by substitute Carl Finnigan, but his effort was straight at Hayes, who beat it to safety.
The home side cleared their lines and eventually broke through the centre, where a challenge by Arca was punished with a yellow card. It was his second booking, with the midfielder having earlier been shown a yellow card in controversial circumstances after a disputed foul, and left South Shields to play more than half an hour with 10 men.
They knew they would have to show incredible grit to get through that period, as they did in the second half of the game against Sunderland RCA recently. There is little doubting the character in this team, though.
The Robins’ best spell came in the period immediately after the red card.
Connell did well to claim a series of crosses before he was beaten in the 61st minute, with Adam Forster cutting in from the left and seeing his shot take a deflection before looping over the goalkeeper. Fortunately for the Mariners, the ball narrowly cleared the crossbar.
South Shields continually blocked and scrambled their way to safety when North Shields did threaten, but soon came back into their stride and looked more comfortable.
In the end, they were unfortunate not to add to their advantage.
A corner from Foley found its way to substitute Louis Storey at the back post, but his effort was hacked off the line as the hosts kept their chances alive.
Robert Briggs also had a free-kick saved by Hayes, while Foley dragged a shot wide from 20 yards.
The Mariners escaped without coming under too much pressure until the final five minutes.
Two tremendous blocks kept them in the lead as the game ticked into stoppage time, before a foul on the edge of the box presented the home side with a big opportunity to level.
Substitute Gareth Bainbridge stepped up and hit the free-kick just over the bar as the visitors survived.
North Shields continued to press bodies forward, and won a series of free-kicks just outside the area as the nerves started to jangle for the Mariners.
Next to let fly from a free-kick was another substitute, Joe Kerridge, but he skied his 20-yard effort well over.
A further free-kick was also survived by South Shields, who countered through Foley, and he hit a shot wide.
With that, though, the final whistle was blown, leading to a huge roar of delight – and relief – from the travelling support.
The Mariners moved to the top of the table and kept their incredible winning run going, setting them up nicely for Tuesday’s home game against Marske United.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Lough, Shaw, Morse (Nicholson 90+5), Arca (c), Briggs, Phillips, Cogdon (Storey 64), Stephenson (Finnigan 57), Foley. Subs not used: Smith, Callaghan.
Goal: Foley (23).
Red card: Arca (59).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.