Whitley Bay overcame a spirited Alnwick side to reach the semi-finals of the Northumberland Senior Cup on Tuesday night as a ten-goal thriller was finally settled in extra time.
The second division visitors looked much the better side for long periods of the game and were quicker to the ball and more accurate in their passing.
Whitley in contrast were lacklustre and a pale shadow of the side that crushed Bedlington in the FA Vase little more than two weeks ago.
Alnwick raced into a two-goal lead inside 20 minutes with Brad McClelland putting them in front after six minutes and strike partner Adam Shanks capitalising on poor defending to double the lead 12 minutes later.
Robbie Bird reduced the deficit after 22 minutes with a close range header after Paul Chow crossed from the byline.
Hopes that this was the start of a Bay fightback were soon dispelled as Alnwick dominated proceedings and restored their two-goal advantage after 33 minutes when the home defence stood and watched as McClelland reacted first to head home his own effort as it came back off the post.
It was looking bleak for Whitley who were producing their poorest display of the season and were being outclassed by their lively opponents.
But 12 minutes into the second half Bird got his and Bay’s second goal after breaking through from midfield.
Whitley began to pose more of a threat and within 90 seconds of coming off the bench on his first appearance since injury, Alex Kempster provided the cross for Paul Robinson to fire home the equaliser.
It was anyone’s game now and Chow almost put Whitley ahead, stabbing the ball onto the post from close range.
Eight minutes from time Chris Reid looked to have won it for the home side when his shot across goal from the left edge of the penalty area beat keeper Straker and nestled in the bottom corner.
But the Hillheads side’s defence still looked vulnerable and four minutes from time Shanks punished more poor defending by slotting home the eighth goal of the game to level the scores at 4-4.
Tony Brown almost snatched a winner for the visitors in the final minute but put the ball wide.
If Whitley thought that fitness levels would count in their favour during the additional 30 minutes they were to be proved wrong as it was they who looked lethargic while the Alnwick players continued to look the hungrier for victory. The north Northumberland side had much the better of the first period and when Reid slipped, McClelland raced clear on goal but drilled his shot into the side netting.
Midway through a tense second period, Craig McFarlane made a surging run down the right and having got past his man, played the ball deep to the back of the penalty area where Robinson hit a powerful shot beyond Straker into the roof of the net.
Whitley were back in front but they were still not playing with any great conviction and Alnwick had certainly not given up hope of rescuing the game.
Peter Watling, who like so many in blue and white, had struggled to make an impact, finally produced the goods two minutes from time with a shot from 15 yards that flew into the corner of the net leaving Straker helpless.
With a two-goal cushion, Whitley could finally scent victory but Alnwick did not let their heads drop and kept going right to the end.
The final whistle was greeted by a relieved Whitley side but the visitors deservedly received a great ovation from both sets of fans and can count themselves unfortunate not to have come out on top.
Whitley Bay: Gladstone, McFarlane, Foster, Godsmark (Kempster 72), Reid, Laws, Bird, Anderson, Watling, Chow (Redford 114), Robinson. Subs not used: Harris, Day, McDonald.