Carl Finnigan struck a hat-trick as South Shields turned on the style to move a step closer to the Northern League title last night.
Shields secured their 32nd win in a row with an impressive 4-0 beating of Marske United at Mariners Park.
Having secured promotion at the weekend, the Mariners now know the championship will be theirs if they defeat Morpeth Town on Saturday.
The encounter with Marske was billed as one of Shields’ toughest remaining challenges this season.
That is how it looked in the first half as the visitors made it tough for their in-form opponents.
Despite a decent performance from Marske in the early stages, it was Shields who had the best chances.
Finnigan hit one not far wide from 25 yards, while a tremendous effort by Jon Shaw found the side netting.
David Foley was the next to threaten, with his cross from the right coming back off the post, and then Finnigan went close when his flick was hacked off the line.
Marske, though, almost took the lead after weathering the storm.
Shields threw bodies in the way of a loose ball in the box, and Pete Jameson eventually had to make a fine save with his feet to deny Andrew Ramsbottom.
The Mariners responded strongly to that scare, and took the lead when visiting goalkeeper Robert Dean parried an Andrew Stephenson header to Finnigan, who touched it home.
The home side put in an excellent performance after the break to put Marske to the sword.
Finnigan went close within 20 seconds of the restart, while Foley and Stephenson also had decent opportunities early in the second half.
Dean was proving a tough goalkeeper to pass, and he again denied Foley after he was played in on goal.
The second goal finally arrived shortly before the hour mark when Foley played it into the feet of Finnigan, who beat Dean at his near post.
That was the signal for further domination by the hosts, with Jordan Blinco proving a menace as he caused Marske no end of problems.
He was kept off the scoresheet, though, despite four good opportunities.
Gavin Cogdon scored Shields’ third with nine minutes left when a Blinco cross was half cleared, and the striker volleyed into the bottom corner.
The chances kept coming, and the Mariners deservedly scored a fourth when a Stephenson shot was pushed out to Finnigan, who danced around Dean and helped himself to a hat-trick.
It was a near perfect night for the Mariners, despite numerous changes having been made to the team which beat North Shields on Saturday.
They now have a tantalising opportunity to wrap up the title against Morpeth on Saturday.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Jameson, Nicholson (Baxter 83), Callaghan, Storey (Arca 60), Shaw (c), Lough, Smith, Stephenson, Blinco, Finnigan, Foley (Cogdon 73). Subs not used: Petrache, Phillips.
Goals: Finnigan (35, 58, 89), Cogdon (81).
l Jarrow Roofing sealed a 3-1 win at Sunderland RCA.
Dennis Knight’s free kick opened the scoring on 20 minutes, finding the bottom corner, and Michael MacKay made it 2-0 15 minutes from time after rounding the home keeper.
RCA pulled one back after 86 minutes, but a minute later MacKay scored his second with a good finish.