Two goals in the closing stages from Gary Ormston and Dean Holmes enabled North Shields to consolidate top spot and retain an eight-point cushion over nearest challengers South Shields in the Ebac Northern League.
For 80 minutes the contest had been in the melting pot with little to choose between the sides as the Colliers bravely battled tooth and nail in a bid to cause a shock result.
The first half – marginally edged by the Wansbeck side – had seen Gareth Bainbridge and Ben Richardson score against their former club,s but it was the introduction from the bench of Dan Wilson which proved to be decisive as the pendulum finally swung in favour of the Shieldsmen.
Terrific and unstinting work by the ground staff leading up to the game had ensured that despite the appalling weather, the contest went ahead.
The surface was heavy and with 20 minutes left when Robins boss Jon McDonald threw Wilson into the fray, his fresh legs and skill proved to be Ashington’s undoing.
With ten minutes to go and many in the 255 crowd casting an eye towards a draw, Wilson’s extra pace against a tiring home defence saw him wriggle past a defender in the box and cross where Ormston planted a firm header from six yards into the far corner.
Three minutes later the visitors put the game to bed. Ben Christensen’s touch on Wilson may have been minimal but it was enough to send the striker over in the area. And after referee Stephen Dial had awarded a penalty, Holmes despatched the resultant spot kick with aplomb sending home keeper Conor Grant the wrong way.
In the context of the game, it was cruel on an Ashington side who fell behind on the quarter hour.
Ormston was the provider of a superbly played ball inside the Ashington defender for the overlapping Marc Lancaster who crossed low and hard from the left. Craig Scott, making his return after being out for a couple of months, half cleared and the ball ricocheted off Ryan Bell before falling to ex-Collier Bainbridge, who calmly side-footed inside the corner.
In the 27th minute, a ball played through by Shaun Henderson for Shaun Bell saw Shields keeper Kyle Hayes show lightning reactions to race from his line and smother, then a 20 yarder from Richardson was held by the sprawling stopper diving to his right.
Bell made a superb last ditch tackle to stop Holmes, who would have otherwise been clean through, before the Colliers got back on terms seven minutes from the break.
After the award of a free kick 22 yards out, ex-Robins midfielder Richardson’s effort took a deflection to squirm past Hayes and creep inside the bottom corner.
It was nothing more than the hosts deserved, and in the final minute of the half, Hayes was brought into the action again, tipping over from Richardson.
Shields had kicked into the teeth of a strong wind during the first half, but after the change over, Steve Harmison’s side also had to battle against the rain which swept down the ground.
Grant smothered a shot from Holmes then on the hour the number one was heavily involved in the action. He touched over a free kick from Adam Forster then came out bravely to thwart Lancaster who had played a one-two with Jordan Summerly.
Ashington came more into the game and midway through the half, Scott glanced on a cross from Henderson but the angle was tight for Lee McAndrew who sliced over.
Then came the late, late show from the leaders as Ormston and Holmes broke Ashington hearts.
Before the game got under way, players, officials and supporters observed a minute’s silence as a mark or respect for long serving Ashington FC fan Ivan Bell who passed away recently.
In midweek, Ashington notched their first ever victory over Guisborough at the KGV Stadium after edging a 5-4 thriller.
On three occasions the Colliers were behind and with only three minutes of normal time remaining they trailed 4-3 before scoring twice in 90 seconds.
On target for Ashington were Ben Richardson (penalty), Dale Pearson, Ben Harmison (2) and substitute Andrew Bulford.
On Friday night Ashington travel to face West Allotment Celtic, kick-off 7.30pm.
Ashington: Grant, Henderson, Christensen, Antony (McGorrigan 84), Scott, R Bell (Tiffoney 78), S Bell, Richardson, McAndrew (Bulford 81), B Harmison, Pearson. Subs not used: Salmon, Sampson.