South Shields bowed out of the Emirates FA Cup at the first round stage as former Sunderland striker Connor Wickham struck twice for Forest Green Rovers on a historic occasion at 1st Cloud Arena.
Wickham headed in the opener midway through the first half before adding a magnificent second from near the halfway line with the last kick of the game, which was played in front of a record crowd of 3,800.
Shields produced a superb performance, particularly after half-time, but were just unable to find an equaliser as they narrowly failed to bridge the four-division gap.
Forest Green came to South Tyneside with something of a point to prove after enduring a difficult start to life in the third tier.
This was reflected in their display throughout the first half, when they enjoyed the majority of the possession.
Myles Boney made a spectacular reaching save in the seventh minute to deny Corey O’Keeffe the opener, as he tipped it behind for a corner which was eventually cleared.
The League One side kept piling on the pressure throughout the first half and broke the deadlock in the 28th minute, with O’Keeffe’s cross headed past Boney by Wickham.
However, the Mariners game out for the second half all guns blazing, enjoying much of the early play, and they nearly capitalised.
Conor Newton whipped in a great cross from the right which found Michael Woods, and the midfielder’s header was narrowly wide.
Shields kept applying the pressure and in the 56th minute had their first attempt on target, with Dillon Morse’s header from a Mackenzie Heaney ball claimed by Lewis Thomas in the Forest Green goal.
The hosts had the better of the chances throughout most of the second half, and went close twice more when Blair Adams fired just wide and Tom Broadbent volleyed narrowly past the post.
However, completely against the run of play, Wickham got his second of the game six minutes into stoppage time with an outrageous effort from just inside the Shields half.
Shields received a standing ovation as their superb run in the competition came to an end, and they return to league action on Tuesday when they host Hyde United at the 1st Cloud Arena.
South Shields: Boney, Newton, Broadbent, Liddle, Morse (Briggs 84), Smith, Mottley-Henry, Woods, Alessandra (Hunter 72), Heaney, Adams (c). Subs not used: Doherty, Dobson, Gomes, Ross, Marriott, Hodgson.
Forest Green Rovers: Thomas, O’Keeffe, Bernard, Casey, Cargill, Hendry (McAllister 90), Little, Boyes, Matt (March 60), Wickham, Bunker. Subs not used: McGee, Fiabema, Robertson, O’Brien, Marques, Peart-Harris.
Goals: Wickham (28, 90+6).
Image: Kev Wilson.