What more could you ask for in a FA Cup tie - goals, blood and thunder challenges, penalties, sendings off and a Scarborough Athletic win?
Wednesday night’s preliminary round replay on the northern banks of the Tyne had all that and more.
The football on show may not have been the greatest, but the £6 entry fee was easily justified by a eight-goal thriller that was eventually wrapped up by Ryan Williams’ penalty shoot-out winner.
After over two hours of football, Boro were left thanking their lucky stars as they almost contrived to throw things away.
Rudy Funk’s men led 3-2 in the dying embers with their opponents down to nine men. The finger was hovering ominously over the self-destruct button though, as silly dismissals for Matty Plummer and Danny Chambers followed. Boro also opened up their defence to their brave Northern League rivals.
Despite losing their calm during that period, Boro kept their heads when it mattered, with each of their four spot-kicks finding the net in the decisive shoot-out.
The tale may have finished well for Boro, but the prologue wasn’t a classic.
From the very beginning North Shields looked sharp on the break and they were quick to take advantage when Boro failed to deal with a free-kick and Curtis Coppen drilled into the top corner.
Boro responded superbly and a spell of pressure was capped by midfielder Chris Bolder feeling the force of a shove in the box.
Gary Bradshaw retained his penalty taking duties and coolly picked out the bottom corner to make it 1-1.
Boro upped their game, with Ryan Blott and Gary Bradshaw going close, but the pace of Shields soon drew another great opportunity.
Winger Williams brushed his man just inside the box and a tumble later left ref Chris Ellis pointing at the spot for a second time.
Last season’s top-scorer Gareth Bainbridge comfortably rolled home to put Shields ahead at 2-1.
Bainbridge could have stretched the home lead a few seconds later, but he was superbly denied by keeper Jason White, who was excellent all evening.
Buoyed by the scare, Boro quickly restored parity thanks to more dead-ball brilliance from Bradshaw.
Boro won a free-kick out wide on the right and the striker curled it gloriously beyond Davod Morton’s hand and into the top corner.
That was the last true action of the first half, as fans and players were allowed a short spell to catch their breath.
The new period began at a similarly frenetic pace, with Shields’ Bainbridge and Boro’s Bennett both going close in the opening exchanges.
The quality of Boro’s play began to dip as the half went on, but they still created enough threat to earn another penalty when Kevin Hughes handballed.
Keeper Morton was at his best to deny Bradshaw a hat-trick though, as his firm hand met the kick.
In fact, both keepers were earning their corn. White had to react when two Boro defenders missed their kicks and allowed Dean Holmes a free run on goal.
Boro’s cause was given an enormous boost with 15 minutes of normal time remaining.
Blott was bundled over by Hughes in the box. The defender was given his marching orders and Williams netted the evening’s fourth penalty.
Tempers continued to flare when Shields’ Ben Richardson kicked out during a tangle with Bolder and he joined Hughes in the early shower.
Boro should have held on from this point in, but instead a wave of panic set in.
Matty Plummer was booked when he pushed his man in the box and Holmes converted at the second attempt to make it 3-3.
Plummer then lunged in for another stupid foul and was shown a second yellow for his trouble.
The full-time whistle came and went, with striker Danny Chambers replacing Blott when the teams emerged for extra-time.
The advantage swung back to Boro minutes later when Paul Robson beat two men on the right and clipped in a cross-cum-shot that went in off the post.
This gave Boro another chance to see things out, but a combination of Shields’ battling and Boro’s ineptitude invited the hosts back into it.
Firstly the Boro defence vanished and Forster finished past an advancing White, making it 4-4.
Then Chambers was sent off for two stupid bookings, levelling things at nine players each.
The memories of last season’s exit at Penrith must have come flooding back to many players when the referee blew for the penalty shoot-out, but they showed no signs of this.
Pete Davidson, Robson and Jordan Thewlis all converted and White denied Joe Elliott and Coppen, leaving it to Williams to draw an absolute thriller to a successful conclusion.