Gavin Cogdon struck in stoppage time to deliver three vital points for South Shields and delight a bumper crowd at Mariners Park on Saturday.
Cogdon kept his composure to score in the 92nd minute, securing a 3-2 victory over Ashington after an enthralling contest.
Shields – in front of 1,373 supporters – had to work extremely hard to get the better of Steve Harmison’s side, who led 2-1 at half-time and battled throughout.
However, they got there in the end to retain second place in Northern League Division One.
In a near-perfect start to the game for the hosts, it appeared they may sweep the Colliers aside.
New signing Gavin Caines made an immediate impact, with the defender scoring just five minutes into his debut, powering in the rebound after Conor Grant had parried a Carl Finnigan header.
Robert Briggs headed inches past the post soon after as the Mariners dominated the ball, and all the signs were positive for the home side.
Out of nothing, though, Ashington levelled in the 12th minute as Kyle Downey’s sweet free-kick from just outside the area on the right nestled in the top corner.
The goal gave the Colliers great confidence as they settled into the game and began to cause Shields problems.
One of their major threats was Lee McAndrew, and he went close to giving them the lead when a ball over the top played him in, but he was unable to lift his shot over the advancing Liam Connell, who made the save.
McAndrew wasn’t denied for long, though, and on 24 minutes, he put the visitors 2-1 up.
A free-kick from halfway was nodded down by Ben Harmison and then volleyed brilliantly into the roof of the net by McAndrew, with Connell left with no chance.
Shields tried to battle their way back into the game, but they were unable to get their football flowing.
In fact, it was Ashington who went closest to scoring again in the first half, as Harmison drilled narrowly wide from just outside the box.
The Mariners were much-improved after the break, but the Colliers had the best opportunity of the opening minutes as McAndrew got in behind and then fired a shot just past the post.
Shields responded by introducing Andrew Stephenson from the bench for his debut, while Cogdon was brought on at the same time.
They began to press their opponents back, and Briggs went close to drawing them level as he curled an effort not far over from 20 yards.
A period of pressure was rewarded just after the hour mark as a Stephenson ball was reached first by Cogdon, who was fouled by the sprawling Grant as the hosts were awarded a penalty.
Julio Arca’s spot-kick found Grant’s bottom-left corner, despite the goalkeeper’s best attempts to keep it out as he guessed the right way.
Things almost got even better for Shields soon after as Stephenson threaded a pass through for Finnigan, who lifted it just over the bar.
Cogdon, meanwhile, was a constant threat to the Ashington defence, and had one snap-shot saved before hitting the rebound over.
Arca was also increasingly influential by this stage as Shields continued to probe, but Grant was in good form as he tipped a powerful shot from Finnigan wide before again denying the striker.
Finnigan was replaced by David Foley with 15 minutes remaining, and within two minutes of his introduction, Grant tipped his overhead kick over the crossbar.
Cogdon had a shot blocked and Foley had one saved, and time seemed to be running out when Stephenson was denied by an excellent save by the foot of Grant with four minutes left.
However, two minutes into stoppage time, the elusive third goal finally arrived.
Arca robbed the Ashington midfield of possession and then clipped a ball into the box for Cogdon, who controlled it with his chest before beating a defender, composing himself and firing into the bottom corner.
It was the hardest-fought of wins for the Mariners, who remain five points behind leaders North Shields ahead of Wednesday’s trip to champions Shildon.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Arca (c), David Carson, Morse, Caines, Palmer (Cogdon 52), Smith, Finnigan (Foley 75), Briggs, Phillips (Stephenson 52). Subs not used: Carmichael, Riding.
Goals: Caines (5), Arca (pen 63), Cogdon (90+2).