The returning Julio Arca salvaged a dramatic point for South Shields as they came from 2-0 down with 10 men to draw with Sunderland RCA on Saturday.
RCA went 2-0 up with 21 minutes to play just moments after Shields defender Dillon Morse had been sent off.
The Mariners’ 12-match unbeaten run looked almost certain to be ended, but they showed tremendous character in the closing stages, with Gavin Cogdon providing a lifeline before a stunning equaliser from Arca four minutes from the end.
The result left the Mariners in second place in Northern League Division One, five points behind leaders North Shields.
The hosts struggled to get going in the early stages, with RCA looking the most likely side to break the deadlock.
Liam Connell made an impressive save from Callum Hassan, while John Butler also went close for the visitors.
Midway through the first half, Shields started to take control, and the closest they came was when Carl Finnigan hit the post after meeting a cross from Robert Briggs.
Finnigan also had a header saved, while Luke Hannant had a glorious chance when he was found by Briggs, but he could only fire over from a good position.
Shields were on top, but they were hit with a sucker punch four minutes before the break.
Greg Swansbury stooped to meet a corner from Jonathan Davis, and he directed a superb header into the opposite corner to hand RCA the lead.
Eight minutes into the second half, Shields introduced Arca and Craig Baxter from the bench.
It was Arca’s first appearance since being injured in the 6-1 win over Ryhope CW three weeks earlier.
Baxter, Briggs and Jon Shaw all went close, but the hosts suffered a major blow when Morse was sent off for a professional foul on Hassan.
It proved to be a double blow for Shields, with Ross McNab hitting the resulting free-kick into the bottom corner to double RCA’s lead.
The Mariners’ response was immediate, with Cogdon squeezing in an excellent effort within moments of the restart as he scored in his eighth consecutive appearance.
The Mariners Park crowd of 972 responded with vocal backing for their team, and Finnigan flashed an effort just over as Shields started to pen their opponents back.
Arca, Baxter and Cogdon were all denied by goalkeeper Sam Guthrie, while McNab diverted a Hannant cross onto his own crossbar.
Eventually, the equaliser arrived, and it was scored in some style by Arca.
A Briggs corner from the left was headed by substitute Stephen Ramsey and then half-cleared to Arca, 25 yards out.
He took a touch to get the ball out of his feet before whipping a superb effort into the top corner to spark scenes of joyous celebration.
Shields pushed for a winner, and Guthrie made an excellent low save from David Carson in a breathless ending.
The Mariners will aim to get back to winning ways tomorrow, when West Allotment Celtic visit Mariners Park for a 7.30pm kick-off.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Smith (Baxter 53), Danny Carson, David Carson, Morse, Shaw, Cogdon (Ramsey 86), Scroggins (c) (Arca 53), Finnigan, Briggs, Hannant. Subs not used: Carmichael, Phillips.
Goals: Cogdon (70), Arca (86).
Sent off: Morse (68).