South Shields' lead at the top cut to two points after Lancaster City defeat
Lancaster City cut South Shields' lead at the top of the BetVictor Northern Premier Division to two points as David Norris' second half goal proved the difference at Mariners Park.
Shields played well for large periods of the game and will feel unfortunate to have lost, but Lancaster showed impressive resolve to strike first and hold on in the closing stages as they extended their unbeaten run to eight.
The Mariners saw their winless run in the league stretch to three matches but they will be able to take plenty of positives into next Saturday's Buildbase FA Trophy tie against AFC Rushden and Diamonds.
They created several more clear-cut opportunities than they did in their previous league outing - a 1-1 draw with Grantham Town - and demonstrated improved positivity on the ball as they probed for a goal, but ultimately they could not find a way through.
Shields were positive from the outset as they made their intentions clear, and went close to opening the scoring as early as the fifth minute when Robert Briggs whipped in a free-kick from the left and Jon Shaw's header was well saved by Lancaster goalkeeper Sam Ashton.
Less than a minute later Ashton was pressured by Nathan Lowe as he prepared to clear the ball and his clearance cannoned against the Shields midfielder before bouncing wide.
Lancaster are one of the league's most-improved sides this season, and created their first chance on 10 minutes when Paul Dawson fired goalwards only to be denied by a block from Adam Thurston.
Shields blocked a further effort from Dawson from the resulting corner before the hosts started to turn the screw again.
They went agonisingly close to the breakthrough when Ashton raced out from his goal to clear the ball on the right flank only to direct it straight to Briggs, whose brilliant effort from distance was incredibly cleared off the line by Lancaster captain Glenn Steel.
Jason Gilchrist had a number of efforts at goal in the first half and the closest he came to scoring followed a series of twists and turns outside the area before he drilled a low effort which Ashton did well to hold.
The Mariners went close again as Jordan Hunter got in down the right and fizzed in a dangerous low cross which was headed past the post by a defender.
A further opportunity came and went as Shields worked the ball impressively down the left and Blair Adams' cross was headed over by Thurston at the back post.
Shields will have felt confident going into the second half and almost took the lead just after the hour.
Phil Turnbull jinked his way in down the left of the box and delivered a low cross which Gilchrist met first time and his effort was deflected onto the post.
At the other end, Myles Boney saved a shot from distance by Robert Wilson before Lancaster took the lead against the run of play as Samuel Bailey's corner from the left was headed back across the area and hooked in by former Ipswich Town man Norris from close range.
The visitors almost made it a quickfire double as Hunter was forced to clear off the line from Wilson but Shields quickly regained their composure as they probed for an equaliser.
Gilchrist hooked a shot wide, Dillon Morse had a powerful effort tipped over by Ashton and Briggs blasted wide from distance.
Substitute Craig Baxter went close as he fired goalwards from the edge of the box and the ball was deflected just past the post, and Gilchrist went closest when he directed a header from a Lowe corner towards the bottom corner, only for Ashton to make a superb save.
It simply proved to be one of those days for the Mariners as they were agonisingly kept off the scoresheet.
They will hope to have better fortune in front of goal when they welcome AFC Rushden and Diamonds next Saturday.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Boney, Hunter (Baxter 85), Adams, Turnbull, Morse, Brown, Thurston, Briggs (Odelusi 75), Gilchrist, Lowe, Shaw (c). Subs not used: Charlton, Wokoma, Jenkins.