South Shields’ 13-month unbeaten home record in the league came to a dramatic end on Saturday as Warrington Town edged a pulsating encounter at Mariners Park.
The Mariners were dominant in possession for long periods but a five-minute double in the first half from the well-organised visitors ultimately proved to be their undoing.
Nathan Lowe deservedly pulled a goal back for Shields before half-time and they pushed for an equaliser after the break, but ultimately could not break the second-placed Yellows down.
The result leaves the Mariners third in the Evo-Stik Premier Division, five points behind leaders Farsley Celtic, who have a game in hand.
It was the third time in a week that Shields had failed to claim maximum points, but it was certainly not for lack of effort.
They made three changes from the team which lost in midweek at Grantham Town, with Jon Shaw, Lee Mason and Luke Daly brought into the starting line-up.
They started brightly in front of a crowd just four shy of 2,000, with an effort from the left of the area by David Foley fumbled behind by Warrington goalkeeper Anthony McMillan.
McMillan also kept out a shot from range by Robert Briggs before Shields suffered a blow when Gary Brown was forced off injured, leading to a reshuffle of the team.
The Mariners recovered from that blow and looked certain to open the scoring as Daly slid a low ball across the box and Mason attacked it from close range, but McMillan somehow kept it out on the goal line.
Less than two minutes later, the Yellows had the lead.
Bohan Dixon collected the ball on the right flank and teased in a dangerous cross which Josh Amis converted from close range.
A superb individual effort from Jack Dunn doubled the visitors’ lead just five minutes later as he advanced down the left before rifling the ball into the roof of the net.
Shields’ response to that double blow was impressive.
Briggs arrowed a shot not far wide from long range before Lowe pulled a goal back nine minutes before half-time with a powerful, placed effort from the edge of the box.
The Mariners immediately pushed for an equaliser and almost found it when a Craig Baxter piledriver was palmed behind by McMillan, who also saved from Lowe.
McMillan later denied Mason as Shields looked to make their spell of pressure count, but they went in at half-time trailing by a goal.
They picked up where they left off in the second half, with Blair Adams’ cross from deep on the left headed over by Mason within seconds of the restart.
At the other end, Amis fired a decent opportunity over and Liam Connell saved from Tony Gray, but in the main, Shields were dominant in terms of possession and territory.
Against the league’s strongest defence, though, they struggled to find a way through.
Warrington were organised and resolute, making chances hard to come by, although McMillan did well to keep out one Shaw header after he got on the end of a Briggs free-kick.
A deflected effort from Foley was deflected just over and a cross from Adams clipped the crossbar as Shields began to wonder if it might be one of those days.
They piled on the pressure in stoppage time, with Adams firing a shot which was deflected inches wide and Phil Turnbull also shooting not far over from distance.
In the final minute of the five added on, Shields were denied by a series of blocks before the ball was scrambled out of play and the final whistle was blown, leading to contrasting emotions on the field.
The home players left the pitch with their heads held high, though, having given every last ounce of energy they had, and were given a standing ovation by a vocal home support.
They will hope to bounce back to winning ways when they travel to Bamber Bridge next Saturday.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Brown (Turnbull 16), Adams, Shaw (c), Morse, Briggs, Baxter, Lowe (Harmison 62), Mason (Cogdon 75), Daly, Foley. Subs not used: Lough, Mouanda.
Goal: Lowe (36).