South Shields' 2023 came to a disappointing end as a stoppage time goal condemned them to a 2-1 defeat at Blyth Spartans.
The Mariners took an early lead when Paul Blackett prodded home after just five minutes but were pegged back by a Finn Cousin-Dawson effort before the half-hour mark.
An even encounter was won by Spartans a minute into second half stoppage time as former Shields striker JJ Hooper headed in.
Elliott Dickman and Lee Picton led the Mariners for the first time following the departures of Julio Arca and Tommy Miller, and they introduced Tom Broadbent, Robert Briggs, Michael Woods, Lirak Hasani and Jordy Mongoy to the starting XI.
They could not have asked for a much better start.
Several bright passages of play in the opening five minutes culminated in the opening goal, with Hasani threading an inch-perfect pass through to Blackett, who beat home goalkeeper Dan Langley with a first-time, low finish.
Shields immediately threatened another and patiently worked the ball to the right of the area, where Blackett attempted to pick out Mongoy with a low cross which was vitally intercepted by Langley.
Spartans began to assert themselves more on the game and created their first chance when Nicky Deverdics' free-kick was headed over by Cousin-Dawson.
The Mariners were still doing most of the probing, with Mongoy having one effort saved and another deflected wide.
A concession of a free-kick on the right of the area proved to be their undoing, though, as Deverdics again picked out Cousin-Dawson and this time his strike went past Myles Boney and under the crossbar to draw Blyth level.
Former Shields man Cedric Main almost put Spartans in front on 32 minutes, but Boney brilliantly stretched out his foot to keep out his powerful shot before Deverdics volleyed narrowly over.
The Mariners will have been largely satisfied with their first half efforts, and they started the second period brightly enough too.
Mongoy fired over from the left of the area, Woods had a strike blocked and Mongoy saw a header saved within 10 minutes of the restart.
Spartans responded with two dangerous attacks of their own, with Boney forced into fine saves from Elliot Forbes and team-mate Broadbent after an attempted clearance flew towards goal.
Clear-cut opportunities were rare, although Shields captain Blair Adams went close with a blistering strike which narrowly cleared the crossbar, and Will McGowan had a decent opening at the other end, only to misfire from 20 yards.
The match looked to be heading for a draw until a minute into stoppage time when a cross from the left was met by the head of Hooper, who sent it into the bottom corner.
Shields will aim to respond at home to Warrington Town next Saturday in their first fixture of 2024.
South Shields: Boney, Lufudu (Clarke 61), Adams (c), Liddle, Broadbent, Smith, Briggs, Woods, Hasani, Blackett (Heaney 86), Mongoy (Martin 75). Subs not used: Abbey, Sloan.
Goal: Blackett (5).
Image: Kev Wilson.