A late fight back wasn’t enough to save Warrington Town from a 3-2 defeat at South Shields.
Trailing 3-0 to two Robert Briggs penalties and Alex Kempster’s early opener, the Yellows might have thrown in the towel but Jordan Buckley gave them hope shortly after the hour.
It looked like Shields had held off the threat of the visitors until Dom Reid set up a frantic finish with five minutes to go.
At the scene of their Northern Premier League play-off final triumph more than two years ago, the Yellows tried to take the game to the league leaders and heavy favourites for the NPL title early on.
Josh Amis, the matchwinner that day, linked up well early on with Jack Mackreth to push the hosts back.
But once Shields had broken through the high press, they soon started to make ground upfield and off their first corner of the match, they took an early lead.
Robert Briggs’ deep corner was headed back by the unmarked Dillon Morse, fired goalwards by Darius Osei and diverted past Dan Atherton by Alex Kempster with barely five minutes on the clock.
On a well-watered surface, Shields passed the ball around well and dominated possession, forcing several corners, without really calling Atherton into further action.
Buckley fired a sharp shot over the bar from 25 yards before Shields doubled their lead.
Conor Tee teased his way past Mitch Duggan and was then tripped by Mark Roberts in the box, enabling Briggs to step up to successfully convert the first of his two spot kicks on the half hour mark.
The Yellows held out until half time to regroup at 2-0, and within a minute of the restart, Amis fired over the bar after good work down the right by Mackreth.
Soon, the same pattern as the first half emerged and the brilliant centre forward Osei then put one on a plate for Jon Shaw, who forced a fine reflex save out of Atherton with a first time shot.
The third goal came on 55 minutes, a clever ball by Will McGowan split the Yellows defence and saw Mackreth bring Kempster down inches inside the box.
Briggs sent Atherton the wrong way again and at 3-0, it looked like that was that.
Only a fine block by Mark Roberts denied Dan Martin a fourth, before Paul Carden opted for a change in personnel with Mackreth sacrificed for James Baillie.
Within minutes of that change, the Yellows had a foothold in the match. Buckley was gifted possession in the centre circle and drove forward on a wiry run, Shields failed to dispossess him and when he reached the box he fired a low shot past Myles Boney inside the far corner for 3-1.
That led to the Yellows’ best spell of the game as Amis and Buckley started to cause some problems.
Buckley somehow got past two men on the left and laid off for Roberts, whose shot from eight yards was saved by Boney’s legs, and then Amis’ powerful shot from the edge was pushed wide one handed by the Shields ‘keeper.
As the game entered the final 10 minutes, it looked like the hosts had restored some order, and a couple of saves from Atherton prevented them from scoring a fourth.
But with five minutes left, Buckley flicked on a free kick and substitute Reid lashed in to the top corner to set up a nervy finale.
Warrington tried as they might to get an equaliser, Baillie’s long-range shot comfortably stopped by Boney, but they ran out of time and slipped to a third league defeat.
They are next in action on Tuesday night when Basford United are the visitors to Cantilever Park.
South Shields: Boney, Martin, Bodenham, Shaw (Stead), Morse, Ross, McGowan (Jenkins), Briggs, Osei, Tee (Lowe), Kempster. Unused subs: Hodgson, Massanka.
Warrington Town: Atherton, Duggan, Clarke (Grivosti), Griffiths (Reid), Roberts, Regan, Mackreth (Baillie), Williams, Amis, Buckley, Hough. Unused subs: Duffy, Gumbs.