Two goals in the final ten minutes from Gary Ormston and Dean Holmes saw North Shields snatch a late victory at Ashington.
As conditions worsened in the second half due to poor weather, Jon McDonald’s side were made to dig deep against a direct Ashington side before being rewarded in the closing stages.
The introduction of Dan Wilson from the bench proved pivotal as it was his cross that allowed Ormston to head the visitors into the lead. The striker then produced a surging run into the area to win a penalty, which Holmes converted.
Gareth Bainbridge had given Shields an early advantage, though ex-Robin Ben Richardson did level midway through the first half.
Morpeth Town’s 4-1 win over West Auckland sets up a huge clash at the Darren Persson Stadium on Saturday as the title race could be cut to a two-horse race between North and South Shields if the Robins beat the Highwaymen.
In an even first half, the Robins made the perfect start as Bainbridge slotted his side into the lead on 15 minutes.
Expert vision from Ormston fed Marc Lancaster in behind the home side defence and the left-back’s cross was half-cleared into the path of the former Ashington man, who found the bottom corner.
Ashington, who in midweek dramatically scored a late winner in a 5-4 victory at Guisborough Town, did not let their heads drop as they went on to finish the half strongly.
The hosts frustrated the visitors, though the referee did not allow Steve Harmison’s side to be too physical as he showed three of his five Ashington cautions in the first period.
Despite the home side pushing, Holmes beat Ben Christensen to the ball to race through with only Connor Grant to beat, but an excellent challenge from Ryan Bell denied the visitors a second in the 35th minute.
Ashington’s biggest threat came from winger Richardson, and it was the former Shields man who fired his team level seven minutes before the break.
Richardson’s deflected low free kick found its way into the corner of Kyle Hayes goal, despite the keeper getting a hand to it.
Moments later Hayes denied Richardson a second when he tipped over his powerful effort in the 44th minute.
Holmes pushed on the home side’s backline to seek balls in behind, and it was Holmes who oversaw the visitors’ first opportunity of the half following a close-range shot well saved by Grant.
But just as in the first half, Ashington rode a somewhat early storm to stake their claim for a winner as Lee McAndrew squandered a good chance and Jack Donnison was called into some heroic defending whilst halting an Ashington counter attack.
And as the Shields partnership of Kevin Hughes and Curtis Coppen also remained resolute, the introduction of Wilson with 20 minutes to go swung the game in the away side’s favour.
With many Ashington men surrounding Wilson, the striker showcased some neat footwork to create the cross which Ormston bravely headed home to spark delight among the travelling support in the 80th minute.
And Wilson was not done there, his energy to drive into the hosts’ penalty area saw Christensen foul the substitute, leaving Holmes to send Grant the wrong way and guarantee another huge three points was taken to NE29.