Defender Michael Turner’s bullet header secured promotion out of Division Two for South Shields last night as they battled to a 1-0 win at Easington Colliery.
The Mariners put in a solid and composed performance against the sixth-placed side, but had to show patience to get the victory.
Just after the hour mark, the breakthrough finally arrived, with Turner showing great determination to get on the end of a Robert Briggs corner and send the huge travelling support into ruptures.
Martyn Coleman could have sealed it two minutes later when he was sent through on goal, but home goalkeeper Kyle Donaldson did brilliantly to save with his foot.
Ian Redman almost scored an own goal late on, while Shields constantly harried their opponents to prevent home opportunities for an equaliser.
With five games to play, the Mariners are 15 points ahead of Chester-le-Street and 16 better off than third-top Billingham Synthonia.
Ryhope CW are fourth, with three games in hand on the leading trio, while Team Northumbria are still in with a chance of clinching one of the two remaining promotion places.
Tomorrow, Ryhope CW – whose game at Brandon United last night was postponed – have Richard Hodgson, Lee Chapman and Paul Braithwaite, who has returned after spending six months playing cricket in Australia, available for their crucial home game with Willington.
Chester-le-Street, at home to Heaton Stannington, are also in the mix, while Billingham Synthonia, who visit Brandon United will be hoping it is third time lucky.
“They’ve beaten us twice and it’s crucial we come away with all three points,” said secretary Graham Craggs, who reports there are injury concerns for Steven Huggins, Sam Garvie and Matthew Crust.
Team Northumbria are the fifth team in the race and they start favourites at home to Alnwick Town, who are near to conceding 100 goals.
Easington Colliery are sixth, but they are out of the running.
Assistant manager Craig Parkinson enthused about 18-year-old Joe Kerridge, saying: “In his first season in adult football, Joe has scored 20 goals in as many games and I know he is looking to finish on a high.”
Chris Freeman, Dan Martin and Shane O’Brien are sidelined for the visit of Birtley Town, who have a fight on their hands to avoid relegation.
Bottom side Stokesley SC, who entertain Whickham, look doomed.