AT the start of the day North Shields FC were the only side capable of catching runaway Northern League division two leaders Newton Aycliffe having five games in hand.
Ninety compelling minutes then followed, two quality sides enjoying rich veins of form and both were satisfied with the outcome.
Aycliffe’s only home league defeat so far has been at the hands of second placed Guisborough Town by 3-2, whilst they have defeated first division leaders Consett on penalties in the Durham Challenge Cup and won 4-1 at Whitley Bay in the Brooks Mileson League Cup.
A formidable record, but Shields travelled with confidence, themselves unbeaten in nine league outings and having put nine past Morpeth in their last cup fixture.
It was undoubtedly the match of the day, and Anthony Woodhouse and Graham Fenton named a strong starting 11 plus a bench that included recent signing Chris Laws from Dunston UTS.
Aycliffe boss Alan Oliver had predicted that his side were on course to put a spanner in the Shields works but perhaps was not feeling so sure as the hosts deservedly trailed at the interval.
The Robins had struck in the 43rd minute when Mark Rasmussen and Andy Hay combined with the latter clattered in the penalty area.
It looked an obvious spot kick but, despite appeals, play was waved on and, when the ball wasn’t fully cleared, Danny Patterson drove goalwards with home full back Danny Mitton turning into his own net.
Aycliffe just weren’t at the races in the first period, sitting back as the Robins poured forward with Hay almost converting a Mark Rasmussen pass early on, Rasmussen then himself shooting inches wide, keeper Scott Pocklington spilling a Paul Watson effort only to hang on at the second attempt then keeping out a Patterson drive following a superb solo run from the Shields full back.
With the temperature plummeting conditions became difficult on the turnaround, but Aycliffe were warming up and looked the most likely winners once they equalised on 66 minutes when Danny Mellanby turned his marker before firing into the bottom corner.
Laws made his long awaited debut and almost made an immediate impact with a goalbound shot deflected inches wide but most of the action was centred at the other end in the closing stages.
Shields keeper Michael Robinson made two breathtaking saves to deny substitute Ben Wood and centre half Mark Peck and the Robins back line of Patterson, Jon Hall, Femi Akinbolu and Steven Robinson held firm.
North Shields: M Robinson, Hall, Patterson, Livermore, Akinbolu, S Robinson, Rasmussen (Pattison 78), Watson (Cartwright 78), Hay (Laws 70), Douglas, Luccock. Subs not used: Graham, Bowman.
North Shields host Northallerton Town on Saturday, kick-off 3pm at the Daren Persson Stadium at Ralph Gardner Park.
Last season the Robins won the corresponding fixture 4-1 with Brian Smith bagging a brace and Robbie Livermore and Femi Akinbolu also on the scoresheet.
In August Shields leaked two goals in the closing stages at Ainderby Road and had to settle for a point after Steve Swinyard and James Luccock had put them in the driving seat.
On Tuesday the Robins are at home to Horden CW (7.30pm), having triumphed 2-0 at the Welfare Ground through Luccock and Gary Cook early in the campaign.