Whitley Bay came out on top in an eight-goal thriller on Teesside that swung first one way then the other.
Twice they came from behind as their never-say-die attitude brought Leon Ryan’s men their third win in the space of eight days, propelling them to within touching distance of the Northern League’s early season pace setters.
It was a game packed with entertainment from start to finish and kept the fans on the edge of their seats until Whitley finally secured victory with a 90th minute goal that was worth the admission money itself.
Paul Chow was within inches of giving Whitley a second minute lead after Alex Kempster had broken away down the left wing and crossed to the near post, but the man with more than 250 goals to his name put his shot just over the angle of upright and bar.
Play then swung to the other end and Matthew Osmond’s through ball caught out the Bay defence as Michael Sweet raced clear and slid the ball past the advancing Mark Cook to give Synthonia the lead after just three minutes.
Whitley responded positively with Leon Ryan’s header across goal from the left reaching Michael Laws, who sent a rasping shot narrowly over the bar.
Ryan was leading by example and he levelled the scores after 12 minutes with a well placed header from Robbie Bird’s right wing cross, leaving former Bay keeper Jonny Ball rooted to the spot.
The game gradually settled down with defences gaining a degree of control, but with 29 minutes played, Whitley took the lead when Peter Watling played the ball wide on the right to Chow who timed his run perfectly, racing through on goal and side stepping Ball before steering his shot into an empty net.
Six minutes later it was all square again and it was Sweet who got his second of the game when his shot from out on the right edge of the penalty area beat Cook at his near post, the Bay keeper getting his hands to the ball but failing to keep it out.
Another defensive error saw Synthonia regain the lead just three minutes later when Porritt’s cross from the right was not cut out and just cleared Craig McFarlane on the edge of the six-yard box, falling for Sweet who despatched the ball in style to complete his hat-trick and give the Teessiders an advantage that they retained to the interval.
The second half continued in similar vein, with both sides creating chances.
Billingham threatened when Kris Hughes produced a shot that Cook saved well at his near post, then Chow was denied by former Bay team-mate and FA Vase winner Steve Gibson.
Whitley had adjusted their formation at the break and were looking more solid in defence, with shots from Osmond and Furness failing to penetrate the Bay rearguard.
Whitley drew level for the second time midway through the half and it was Watling whose persistence paid off with a 15-yard shot that flew past Ball after his first attempt had been blocked.
Whitley were really getting on top now and even the height of 6ft 5in substitute Andy Jennings did little to stem the tide of attacks.
Three shots in rapid succession were blocked, Chow’s effort being kept out by the outstretched leg of Ball, another being kept out by a defender while the third from McFarlane rebounded into touch for a throw-in.
Watling was proving a real handful for the Synners defence and when Bird played the ball into his path with 15 minutes remaining, he crashed a first time shot past Ball from 12 yards to put Whitley back in front.
Two minutes later Watling cut the ball back for McFarlane whose shot was blocked, but in a break to the opposite end, Porritt’s curling shot looked to be destined for the top corner until Ryan’s timely defensive header averted the danger.
The excitement continued until the last minute of normal time when Bird tormented Stewart Bath with excellent ball control near the left touch line before breaking clear and delivering a perfect cross to the back of the 18-yard box where McFarlane produced a superb volley shot that flew like a bullet beyond Ball and into the net.
With the comfort of a two-goal lead, Whitley easily saw out the four minutes of added time and left the field to resounding applause from the travelling fans.
It was their second half performance that made the difference with their determination and superior fitness showing through as they scored three times without reply, thereby securing their first win at Central Avenue in more than five years.
Whitley Bay: Cook, McFarlane, McDonald (Redford 90), Buzzeo (Ellison 53), Ryan, Brooking, Bird (Godsmark 90), Laws, Watling, Chow, Kempster. Subs not used: Gladstone, Harris.