The remarkable form of South Shields continued as they edged past Consett to make it 30 wins in a row on Tuesday – and move within two points of promotion.
The Mariners were not at their best against the Steelmen, who put them under severe pressure in the closing stages.
However, Gavin Cogdon’s first half poacher’s effort was enough to seal a 1-0 victory for Shields, who are now just three points behind Northern League Division One leaders North Shields, with two games in hand.
The top two go head-to-head at the home of the Robins on Saturday, and a win at Daren Persson Stadium would secure a top-three slot for the Mariners, and with it promotion.
To get into that position, Shields had to show real resolve to see off an impressive Consett side at Mariners Park.
Things had looked routine in the opening stages for the hosts as they established control and started on the front foot.
Gavin Cogdon was sent in on goal by a sublime Julio Arca pass within the first two minutes, but as he dribbled into the box, he fell to the floor under a challenge, and the officials ruled it was not a penalty.
The ball was kept alive, and in the end Jon Shaw – deployed up-front by joint managers Lee Picton and Graham Fenton – had a header saved by Consett goalkeeper Ross Coombe.
Shields continued to have joy going forward, and Robert Briggs curled a free-kick not far wide while Arca fired over from distance.
A breakthrough seemed inevitable, and it almost came when a loose ball dropped to Cogdon in the box, but he snatched at his volley, which went well over.
It did not take long for the striker to make amends.
Wayne Phillips played a short corner routine with Barrie Smith and received the ball back, before picking out Robert Briggs, who had peeled off at the back post. He headed the ball across the box for Cogdon, who finished from close range for his 25th goal of the season.
Shields lost their way somewhat after that – something perhaps inevitable in what was their fifth game in 11 days.
Consett began to put some pressure on, and Pete Jameson in the Mariners’ goal had to keep out a header from Dan Hawkins after a free-kick was not cleared.
The Steelmen went even closer on the half-hour mark, with Michael Sweet getting in behind on the inside-right of the box before pulling the ball across goal to captain Daniel Craggs, who was denied by a stunning save by Jameson. He stretched out his right foot to divert the ball to safety.
The rest of the first half was more even, with both sides having half chances.
The closest either team came to adding to the scoring before the break came when a Briggs effort from the edge of the box was deflected not far past the post.
The game was played in front of a superb crowd of 1,359, most of whom were hoping the Mariners would continue their incredible run to maintain their title challenge.
For all concerned, the second half was something of a nervy affair.
Shields started it brightly, with Shaw heading wide from an Anthony Callaghan cross before Phillips hit an effort which went just wide via a deflection.
Consett then began to peg their hosts back, and the first warning sign was when a Craggs corner caused serious concerns before the loose ball was eventually claimed by Jameson.
The visitors went even closer soon after when a shot from just outside the area by Luke Sullivan was parried by Jameson and the ball broke to Sweet, who was denied by an excellent block from Dillon Morse.
Picton and Fenton opted to shake things up, with Jordan Blinco replacing Callaghan, resulting in a move back to defence for Shaw, while Darren Lough switched to left-back.
That change almost reaped immediate rewards as Cogdon got in down the left and fizzed a ball across goal which just evaded Blinco, who would have had an open goal.
Still holding such a slender advantage, Shields then found themselves under serious pressure for the final 20 minutes as Consett went more direct.
Ryan McKinnon flicked on a free-kick from deep, and saw his effort kept out by Jameson, who also made a good stop from substitute Jordan Nellis as he tried his luck from outside the box.
Jameson was becoming ever more influential, and did well to push away a Craggs corner which was destined for the net.
Next to go close for Consett was Nellis – who made a great impact after coming on – as he got into a shooting position before firing a goalbound effort which was superbly blocked by Morse.
The Steelmen continued to press but looked like they had ran out of steam, until the third minute of stoppage time.
Another free-kick from deep was nodded towards the top corner by Hawkins, and Jameson made an incredible one-handed save as he forced the ball over the bar.
At the final whistle, Jameson was embraced by Morse and Shaw as they celebrated a hard-fought clean sheet – and with it another vital win.
This was surely one of the most difficult games the Mariners have faced in their 30-match winning run.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Jameson, Baxter (Nicholson 39), Callaghan (Blinco 64), Lough, Morse, Arca (c), Smith (Storey 86), Phillips, Shaw, Briggs, Cogdon. Subs not used: Connell, Holden.
Goal: Cogdon (22).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot,