A stirring second half fightback moved South Shields four points clear at the top of the Evo-Stik North Division on Saturday as they came from 2-0 down at Ossett Albion.
The Mariners were heading for a fourth league defeat of the season after going in at half-time two goals behind.
A superb response after the break saw them claim a 2-2 draw thanks to goals from Michael Richardson and Jon Shaw, though they were unable to force a winner despite dominating the second half play.
The point moved them four points clear of Hyde United and Scarborough Athletic, who have both played a game more.
Shields were looking for a fifth straight win in the league, and started relatively brightly, with Aksel Juul whistling an early effort over from the right of the area.
However, they were rocked by a quickfire double from the hosts as they were made to pay for slackness at the back.
Adam Priestley fired Shields a warning as he volleyed an effort wide, but within a minute of that, Albion were ahead.
Joshua Grant slipped a ball through the middle for Tom Corner to run onto, and his effort across goal hit Dillon Morse before nestling in the net.
It turned into a nightmare minute for the Mariners, who conceded again just 15 seconds after kicking the game back off.
They gave the ball away soon after kick-off and it was worked by Marcus Day to Priestley, who took a touch to get it out of his feet before rifling a shot across Liam Connell and in.
Shields did not look like their usual selves in the first half as they struggled to find any rhythm, despite battling to get back into contention.
Their first real chance fell the way of Robert Briggs on the stroke of half-time, but he could only drag his effort wide from the edge of the box.
Lee Picton and Graham Fenton will have been looking for a strong response from their side in the second half, and they got just that.
Lee Mason – who was arguably their best performer throughout – produced some fine skill to light up a move which led to a Louis Storey shot.
The effort from the midfielder was off-target, but Michael Richardson steered it in with his head to pull one goal back for Shields just two minutes into the second half.
That gave the Mariners the momentum they needed to press on, and they had a number of opportunities to get back on level terms.
Mason got on the end of a ball over the top on the right and the angle looked too tight, but he sent an audacious shot towards goal which goalkeeper Neil Bennett did well to claw out for a corner.
From that set-piece, Dillon Morse saw a header saved by Bennett, who could only watch as Graeme Armstrong nodded the rebound over.
Shields kept up the pressure and Storey volleyed wide, before they won a game-defining corner in the 66th minute.
Julio Arca took it from the right and curled it superbly into the six-yard box, where Shaw stooped to head it home and send the superb Shields travelling support into raptures.
A strong penalty appeal after a challenge on substitute Graeme Armstrong was waved away, while at the other end, Albion had some half chances from distance but were unable to seriously threaten a winner.
The Mariners penned them back again in the closing stages, and the closest they came to netting a dramatic winning goal came in the second of four added minutes.
Briggs curled in a teasing free-kick from the right and Armstrong nodded it goalwards, only to see it agonisingly pass the post and the team-mates who were attempting to slide it in.
At half-time, Shields would undoubtedly have settled for a point, although in the end they could have claimed a superb victory.
They will hope it proves to be an important point in the final reckoning.
The Mariners are back in league action on Tuesday when they travel to bottom side Goole for a 7.45pm kick-off.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Lough, Shaw, Morse, Arca (c), Storey, Briggs, Mason, Richardson (Armstrong 55), Juul (Holmes 62). Subs not used: Woolston, Nicholson, Ross.
Goals: Richardson (47), Shaw (66).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
South Shields made it seven wins out of seven to start the new season as Jamie Holmes again shone in a 3-1 victory over Ossett Albion at Mariners Park on Tuesday.
Fresh from scoring a brace in the 2-0 Emirates FA Cup win at Witton Albion three days earlier, Holmes struck twice more to help Shields extend their lead at the top of EVO-STIK North to three points.
Louis Storey – making his first start of the season – was also on the scoresheet as the Mariners were again made to work for their victory, with all of the goals scored in the second half.
Joint managers Lee Picton and Graham Fenton had opted to freshen up the team by making five changes, with Anthony Callaghan, Alex Nicholson and Michael Richardson, as well as Holmes and Storey, brought in.
Shields started well, and could have taken the lead within the first two minutes when Robert Briggs found Richardson in a dangerous position, but his well-hit effort was blocked.
Carl Finnigan also sent an early sighter wide after Alex Nicholson got forward well from right-back to provide him with an opportunity, and at that stage it looked set to be a long night for Albion.
They settled into their gameplan, though, and the longer the first half went on, the more difficult to break down they became.
The Mariners were able to get into some dangerous areas, with Briggs – who had an excellent game in midfield – chipping an effort over and Matty Pattison whistling an effort past the post after being played in by Callaghan.
Shields were restricted to attempts from long range in the final half-hour of the first half.
One of those efforts came from Pattison, who saw a shot beaten away by Albion goalkeeper Dylan Parkin.
Parkin was twice beaten by superb efforts in the closing stages of the half, but the Mariners were left to rue their luck.
The first came when Storey broke forward and unleashed a piledriver which flew just over the bar.
Richardson, meanwhile, thought he had scored what would have been one of the goals of the season in stoppage time. He flicked the ball past a defender before rifling a stunning effort into the top corner from just outside the box, but the assistant referee’s offside flag cut the celebrations short. It was certainly a tight decision.
Shields attacked with more purpose in the second half and were rewarded just 60 seconds after the restart.
After playing a great give-and-go with Pattison, Holmes burst into the penalty area on the left and took a touch before arrowing a brilliant shot into the bottom corner.
It was a moment of quality which lit up the game, but the Mariners would have to be patient to seal the victory.
Richardson had an effort deflected narrowly wide while a Finnigan bullet stung the fingertips of Parkin as Shields pushed to do just that.
The breathing space they craved arrived on 73 minutes when Nicholson curled a superb ball onto the head of Storey, who powerfully nodded it past Parkin.
Within two minutes of that, though, Albion pulled a goal back as they threatened a comeback.
It was a fine goal, too, with an outstanding low cross from the right by Declan Dawson fired into the roof of the net by Callum Charlton.
The comeback was swiftly thwarted by Shields as they got back on the front foot and put the game to bed with 11 minutes left.
Nicholson capitalised on a poor goalkeeping clearance and played it towards Holmes on the inside-left of the box. He got on the end of the pass after Dawson failed to get control of it, and made the finish look far easier than it was, taking a touch to beat defender Danny South before hitting a low effort into the corner.
His second half performance deserved a second goal, and helped to earn the Mariners a 44th win in 45 games.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Nicholson, Callaghan, Lough, Storey, Arca (c), Briggs, Pattison (Baxter 66), Finnigan (Cogdon 74), Richardson, Holmes (Sullivan 81). Subs not used: Shaw, Morse.
Goals: Holmes (46, 79), Storey (73).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.