South Shields reached the halfway point in their inaugural Vanarama National League North season in disappointing fashion as they were beaten 2-0 by Rushall Olympic.
Goals at the start and end of the first half condemned the Mariners to a third straight defeat, leaving them fifth in the standings at Christmas.
They lined up in a 3-5-2 formation at Dales Lane, and an open start to the game resulted in big chances at both ends.
A first minute free-kick from Robert Briggs was flicked wide by Paul Blackett for Shields and Luke James had a low strike saved by home goalkeeper Jake Weaver.
Weaver denied James for a second time before the hosts took the lead on eight minutes, with Kai Adan George turning well in the area before picking out the top corner.
Rushall took the initiative from there and enjoyed the better of the first half.
George blazed over when well-placed down the left of the box and Alex Fletcher went close with a sweet strike from distance which crashed against the post.
Fletcher threatened again with a low left-foot effort which went narrowly wide and there was an excellent block by Dillon Morse to keep Danny Waldron off the scoresheet.
Shields improved as the game approached half-time and almost levelled things up when Morse’s header from a Briggs corner was cleared off the line.
John Lufudu was thwarted by an excellent fingertip save by Weaver but Rushall struck the decisive second blow three minutes into stoppage time as George pounced on a loose ball and completed his brace with a curling effort into the bottom corner.
Rushall started the second half brightly and after Waldron was denied by the offside flag, Myles Boney made a fine save from Alex Moore.
Shields introduced Aaron Martin from the bench and he threatened a goal back, but Weaver kept out his low strike.
Weaver also saved from Blackett as the Mariners continued to push for a route back into the game.
There was to be no reprieve, though, and Rushall almost made the points safe when Boney parried from Sam McLintock and Waldron fired the rebound into the side netting.
Martin hit one wide, Abbey was narrowly off target with a free-kick and James was denied by a sharp stop from Weaver as he maintained his clean sheet.
Shields were ultimately unable to reduce the deficit, and will aim to bounce back when they host Blyth Spartans on Boxing Day.
South Shields: Boney, Lufudu, Adams (c), Liddle, Morse, Broadbent (Martin 54), Smith, Briggs, Abbey, Blackett (Woods 86), James. Subs not used: Mongoy, Hasani, Clarke.
Image: Kev Wilson.