This FA Vase tie was passionate, frenetic and feisty, indeed everything expected from a North Shields versus Crook Town clash.
The sides must meet again, the Robins reprieved by a 90th minute equaliser from the spot that earned extra time and left the County Durham visitors, newly elevated to the first division, hanging on.
The Robins’ management duo of Graham Fenton and Andy Bowman weren’t quite sure whether to be delighted or disappointed after 120 pulsating minutes.
Bowman said: “What a great game, we were out with just minutes to go but oozed tremendous character and determination to pull it back – then create enough opportunities to win a couple of matches.”
It was an afternoon that the Shields substitutes bench shone, defender Stuart Donnison again slotting in superbly after an unfortunate injury to John Grey whilst, up front, Dean Walker and the rejoining Dean Holmes transformed the tie.
Holmes is a fan’s favourite, a former joint golden boot winner alongside Shields legend Keith Douglas, and, following a brief sojourn with Blyth Spartans, has returned to Ralph Gardner Park and what an immediate impact he made.
Inspirational centre half John Parker once more wore the number five shirt despite indications he may be sidelined for some weeks but further injuries to Grey and Joe Elliott will give the Shields bosses some headaches as they bid to pick a side for the midweek replay.
Regular custodian Michael Robinson was back between the posts and mightily relieved in the opening minutes as Crook’s Kyle David headed over when it seemed easier to score.
The Millfield men though did lead on 17 minutes, a defensive misunderstanding allowing Chris Wallace to convert and, whilst the hosts engineered a couple of openings the first period was relatively flat.
Not so on the turnaround, Crook custodian Barry Poskett soon in the action parrying a Dan Smart effort to safety then holding onto a Gareth Bainbridge header following a Ben Richardson free kick.
Gloom descended upon the Daren Persson Stadium as, before the hour mark, Craig Price neatly tucked away Crook’s second.
The introduction of Holmes revitalised the Tynesiders and his rousing raids down the left flank ran the visitors ragged.
Eighteen goal Bainbridge was given a break, the Shieldsmen continued to rally and, despite nursing a knock, Joe Elliott’s determination produced a storming run only denied by the woodwork but Walker was on hand to prod home.
Walker was proving a livewire on the right, complimenting Holmes’ heroics left side, and the pair bemused the Crook back line.
Poskett somehow kept out Smart’s rasping point blank drive but, with time running out, Holmes surged into the area only to be unceremoniously upended.
Dusting himself down he blasted in the spot kick to set up another 30 minutes of nerve-racking fare.
Crook were content to contain, but, despite plenty of enterprise, Shields just couldn’t convert a succession of half chances as the visitors goal bore a charmed life.
North Shields: M Robinson, Elliott, Grey (Donnison 43), Richardson, Parker, Hughes, Forster, Tait, Bainbridge (Walker 69), Smart, Wrightson (Holmes 59). Subs not used: Douglas, Courtney.
On Saturday North Shields are part of the Northern League Groundhop, featuring four games in one day, centred in the Newcastle area.
Accordingly the Robins’ visit to the Benton to take on West Allotment Celtic will kick off at 1.15pm.
North Shields have been drawn at home to Newcastle United Reserves in the Northumberland Senior Cup, the tie to be played before November 23.