Louis Storey scored a dramatic late winner as South Shields made it a club record-equalling 20 victories in a row last night.
Storey’s 87th minute header secured a vital 1-0 win at Newcastle Benfield in Northern League Division One.
On a tough night, Shields looked set to drop two points in the title race, but their win closed the gap to leaders North Shields to eight points, with the Mariners having two games in hand.
It was not a vintage performance by Shields on a pitch which made passing football difficult.
Benfield had an early opportunity to open the scoring, but Joshua Scott spurned it as he hit one over the bar.
At the other end, a header from Carl Finnigan took a bobble off the pitch and was grasped at the second attempt by home goalkeeper Andrew Grainger.
More action followed in the 12th minute as Grainger saved a Finnigan shot outside the area, and the officials ruled that it had not struck his hand.
Benfield countered, and John Campbell looked odds-on to open the scoring, only for Liam Connell, in the Shields goal, to produce a fine save.
Connell had a superb game between the sticks, and was also on hand to save well from Paul Brayson after his low effort looked set to sneak in.
At the other end, Finnigan had a shot deflected just wide, and the teams went in level at half-time.
Finnigan had a great chance to break the deadlock when Alex Nicholson found him with an excellent through ball, but he could only shoot over.
Benfield had more than their fair share of opportunities, too.
They almost took the lead with 64 minutes on the clock when Campbell’s free-kick from 20 yards took a deflection and looked set to wrong-foot Connell.
However, he would not be beaten, and stuck out a hand to brilliantly keep out the effort.
The Mariners seemed likely to have to settle for a point, until substitute David Foley’s shot was deflected out for a corner with three minutes left.
Andrew Stephenson curled in the set-piece and it was met by Storey, who sent a fine header beyond the defenders on the line to seal the three points.
It was an excellent moment for Storey, who has only recently returned from a five-month lay-off for a broken leg.
Shields are back in action on Saturday, when they take on fellow title contenders Shildon at Mariners Park.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Callaghan, Lough, Shaw, Arca (c) (Storey 58), Nicholson (Foley 58), Phillips, Finnigan, Stephenson, Richardson. Subs not used: Parkin, Holden, Briggs.
Goal: Storey (87).
Harton and Westoe CW roared back from two goals down to secure only their second win of the season in the TWR Bifolds Wearside League.
Sunderland West End raced into a comfortable lead with goals from Luke Bell and Mark Catcheside.
But Brodie Simpson rallied Harton and Dominic Solomon equalised just before half-time.
Harton grabbed the winner on the hour mark, when Solomon scored to make it 3-2.