South Shields were denied a replay at Edgeley Park as substitute Nyal Bell netted an injury time winner for Stockport County.
Carl Finnigan put the Mariners in front on the half-hour mark but Sam Walker levelled the deficit just seven minutes after Liam Connell dropped Adam Thomas’ corner.
Shields seemed to lose their full attacking spark when Gavin Cogdon limped off in the 35th minute. And a muted second-half in front of goal for the hosts was punished in devastating fashion.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be for the Mariners this year after knocking out National League North opposition in Darlington and York City last term.
It was an energetic start by the Mariners with Cogdon acting as the hosts’ livewire.
His vision set Finnigan away but despite the striker holding off the challenge of Ash Palmer, the Stockport captain’s presence put him off as he struck over from 10 yards out.
But next time Cogdon found an ounce of space, it paid dividends as the Mariners found the lead with their first shot on target.
The attacker’s flick fed in Blair Adams on the right side of the penalty area before he squared the ball across the six-yard box, allowing Finnigan to cap off a fine move.
Five minutes later, Cogdon departed – Ursene Mouanda replacing him - and lost that attacking spark as the visitors quickly equalised.
Shields keeper Connell failed to hold Thomas’ corner as Walker bundled the ball home from close range.
Stockport looked the most likely to grab a winner in the second-half, though David Foley did go close on 49 minutes when he forced a good save from Ben Hinchliffe from an awkward angle.
A 10-minute spell had Shields under the cosh and brought another heart-in-mouth moment from Connell.
Darren Stephenson aimed into the side netting following a miss-kick inside the home side’s penalty area before Frank Mulhern forced a strong save from Connell just off the edge of the six-yard box.
Connell’s clearance was then closed down by the fresh legs of Elliott Osbourne and he almost saw his closedown rebound in the bottom corner.
Mouanda’s shot from 20 yards out briefly split up the Hatters’ pressure before the visitors applied the devastating blow.
Bell, who had earlier snatched at good opportunity, wasn’t to be denied on his next occasion when he volleyed Walker’s delivery past Connell.
South Shields: Connell, Baxter, Lough (Mason, 52), Shaw (c), Morse, Turnbull, Adams, Briggs (Wright 73), Cogdon (Mouanda, 35), Finnigan, Foley.
Subs not used: Lister, Brown, Hunter.
Stockport: Hinchliffe, Minihan, Duxbury, Keane, Palmer (Capt.), Cowan, Thomas, Walker, Mulhern (Bell, 73), Dimaio (Osbourne, 45), Stephenson (Mantack, 94).
Subs not used: Downing, Kirby, Warburton, Ormson.