Whitley Bay put a severe dent in West Auckland’s championship challenge with a surprising but thoroughly deserved victory at Hillheads on Tuesday evening.
The visitors, lying second in the table just one point behind leaders Guisborough, were hoping to return to top spot.
But a battling Bay side sent their fans into raptures of delight with what must rank as their best performance of the season.
West started well and after 12 minutes, Sean McCafferty, back in goal for the home side, had to make a fine diving save to keep out a shot from Jake Fowler.
Ruddy then had a shot blocked as the visitors enjoyed the greater share of possession.
Whitley gradually came more into the game and on the half hour Andy Ferrell’s through ball released Andy McBride, but the former Team Northumbria striker, making his first start in Bay colours, saw his attempt blocked by keeper Dan Lowson.
However, barely 90 seconds later, Bay took the lead with a sublime shot from Paul Robinson.
Making only his second appearance after recovering from a lengthy injury, he struck the ball from fully 20 yards out on the right and it swerved beyond the despairing dive of Lowson into the top corner of the net.
The joy and team spirit in the Bay side was clear to see as the midfield maestro was mobbed by every outfield player.
Whitley poured forward and a teasing cross from Chris McDonald was headed over his own bar by under-pressure defender Lewis Galpin.
Alex Kempster then broke through on the right but with the visitors quickly closing in and his shot was off target.
Shortly afterwards, Whitley had the ball in the Auckland net again but an offside flag had been raised and the goal was ruled out.
The visitors fought back and after a shot whistled just inches over the Whitley bar, David Gordon’s ball down the left found prolific striker Mattie Moffatt, who cut in and drove home a low shot to level the score with five minutes of the half remaining.
Robinson then went close with a shot that just cleared the bar, but at the interval the score remained deadlocked at 1-1, with little to choose between the sides.
Four minutes after the restart, McBride fired over the bar after being played through on goal as Whitley began to gain the upper hand.
Defensively they looked well organised and secure, denying Richardson and Moffatt any clear chances on goal.
Ferrell, who was proving increasingly influential in midfield, then produced the piece of quality that won the game for Whitley.
From 25 yards out on the right, he spotted his chance and curled a tremendous shot beyond Lowson into the far corner of the net.
The expected response from West Auckland never really materialised as to a man Whitley battled tenaciously for every ball and it was the visitors who came under greater pressure in the closing stages, with Lowson pulling off a fine save at the near post to prevent Craig McFarlane adding a third goal for Paddy Atkinson’s side.
It then took a last ditch tackle by substitute White to stop Kempster in his tracks as he was about to break through on goal.
Four minutes of added time were safely negotiated before Whitley were finally able to celebrate their first home victory over West Auckland in more than five years.
Whitley Bay: McCafferty, McFarlane, McDonald, Ferrell, Laws, Blandford, Kempster, Robinson (H Laws 64), Watling, McBride (Richardson 57), Bird. Subs not used: Cave, Flynn, Smith.