Ashington made Ebac Northern League division one leaders Shildon fight all the way for their slender victory at Woodhorn Lane on Saturday.
Trailing 2-0 at the interval, Steve Harmison’s side reduced the leeway early in the second period when Ben Harmison notched up his fifth goal of the campaign, but the Colliers were unable to force an equaliser.
Consequently, after back-to-back wins in the FA Vase and Northumberland Senior Cup over Easington and Newcastle Benfield respectively, it was an unhappy return to league duty for the Wansbeck outfit.
Shildon boss Gary Forrest said after the match that before a ball had been kicked, he would have been satisfied had his side taken a point from the clash, and the boss will be fully aware that when the two sides meet again in County Durham in early March, Ashington have won at Dean Street for the past four seasons.
The visitors named ex-Colliers goalkeeper Kyle Hayes in their line-up, and Steve Harmison handed a debut to Michael Dixon, signed from Dunston UTS, with another newcomer, Ollie Hodgkiss, on the substitutes’ bench, but the home boss was still shorn of a host of players through injury.
There was little in the way of clear-cut opportunities in the opening exchanges, but Shildon did the more probing at that stage.
Lewis Wing lashed the ball across the face, then Matthew Robson found Daniel Groves, but his cross was cleared.
However, the visitors went in front in the 16th minute after the award of a free-kick.
Wing stepped up and fired a 25-yarder which crept inside the post wide of the despairing hand of keeper Conor Grant.
Wing had another opening but dragged his effort wide before, in the 21st minute, Hayes preserved Shildon’s lead.
Matty Grieve had a shot blocked following an Andrew Johnson free-kick but from the next phase, Grieve connected cleanly with a goal-bound volley from eight yards which was brilliantly held by the custodian.
That save took on more significance two minutes later when Gary Brown doubled Shildon’s lead from a right-sided corner. Wing swung the ball over for Gary Brown, who powered a free header from six yards into the roof of the net.
Chris Moore failed in his attempt to chip Hayes from 20 yards, then Kyle Downey and Ben Harmison combined to set up a chance on the half volley for James Harmison, but he drove over from the edge of the area.
And when play switched, the central defender was in the thick of the action, clearing a cross from Jonathan Davis before blocking in fine style to thwart Paul Connor.
As half-time approached, Hayes clutched a header from Ben Harmison, then Johnson directed off target after a centre from the left.
Six minutes into the second period, Ben Harmison gave his side a lifeline following a neatly-constructed move.
Scott Blandford, Dixon and Moore were initially involved, then Harmison played the ball out wide to Johnson, whose drive was fisted away by Hayes but only into the path of Harmison, who side-footed home from just inside the area.
Minutes later, the goal-scorer jinked past a defender to create himself an opening, but his shot lacked power and Hayes collected.
Ten minutes from time, substitute Michael Rae had a chance to increase Shildon’s lead, but his lob from the edge of the area struck the angle of post and crossbar.
On Saturday, Ashington are away to West Allotment Celtic, then the Colliers make the short trip to face neighbours Whitley Bay at Hillheads on Tuesday.
Ashington: Grant, Blandford, Weldon, Downey (Hodgkiss 72 minutes), J Harmison, Grieve, Moore, Dixon, Scott (King 72 minutes), B Harmison, Johnson. Subs not used: Williams, Race, Hall (gk).