North Shields lost a thrilling FA Vase replay in extra time to Crook Town.
Top scorer Gareth Bainbridge’s brace looked to have booked the Robins’ passage, but they were to be denied by a 92nd minute equaliser before bowing out in extra time.
The drama and tension was summed up by Shields assistant boss Andy Bowman.
“A great game for the neutral,” he said.
“A little bit of naivety cost us in the end but no one could fault the lads’ effort and determination.”
The Robins were left drained and exhausted but still had enough strength to share the spoils at Benton three days later.
Shields shaded it against rivals West Allotment, the hosts mightily relieved not to concede a penalty when Dan Smart was brought down from behind and again, late on, with an assistant’s flag contentiously ruling out Dean Walker’s effort, after Smart had struck the woodwork.
Graham Fenton’s lads though could not add to their 47 goal tally from 14 league matches but managed to keep a seventh clean sheet in those games.
At Millfield in the midweek FA Vase replay, key defender Joe Elliott was ruled out but Shields started confidently with wide men Dean Holmes and Dean Walker prominent.
Livewire Adam Forster was unlucky not to touch in a Walker centre from close range whilst at the other end a Kyle Davis shot was touched behind by Michael Robinson.
Crook’s experienced custodian Barry Poskett was the busier keeper, blocking from Walker then tipping aside John Grey’s blistering drive as the first period ended goalless.
On 51 minutes Elliott Woods was left unmarked to nod in a corner but the Shieldsmen levelled with Bainbridge’s fierce effort from the edge of the box flying past Poskett.
Another surging run from Holmes forced a flag kick from which Bainbridge’s rasping volley took a deflection on its way past the home keeper.
As the clock ticked over Shields lost the services of Forster through a knock and, as Crook frantically pushed forward, Adam Nicholls rattled the bar before veteran striker Warren Byrne bagged the County Durham outfit’s second.
The spectacle was far from over, Nicholls a former West Auckland team-mate of Shields’ centre-half John Parker, rifled into the top corner four minutes into extra time.
Shields’ heads didn’t go down though and skipper Kevin Hughes squared up matters once more, firmly nodding in a corner.
On 105 minutes, came what proved to be the winner, the outstanding Nicholls drilling the ball home.
What further fever and passion though in the dying moments with Crook’s Richard Hodgson sent off, Nicholls again striking the woodwork, Robinson spectacularly touching over from Matthew Weirs then Shields’ Michael Tait agonisingly only inches wide with a header.
North Shields: Robinson, Donnison, Grey, Richardson, Parker, Hughes, Walker (Scope 65), Forster (Wrightson 86), Bainbridge (Smart 79), Tait, Holmes. Subs not used: Hook, Courtney.
Injured duo, keeper Michael Robinson and Joe Elliott, are both likely to be ruled out of Saturday’s trip to Chester-le-Street, kick-off 3pm.
North Shields will entertain Newcastle United Reserves in the quarter-final of the Northumberland Senior Cup on Wednesday, December 11.