A depleted Alfreton Town side had matched their hosts with an hour played at Gateshead on Saturday, until their Skrill Premier game adopted a familiar pattern with a blatant penalty denied.
Job Ayo Akinde was once again at the heart of the decision, having run on to Daniel Meadows’ 60th minute ball down the right before being bundled over by Ben Clark, but referee Simon Bennett waved aside fervent appeals.
And there was worse to come when skipper John McGrath picked up a second yellow card in the 70th minute, some seven minutes after the Reds had fallen behind, and he will now miss next Saturday’s trip to Aldershot alongside suspended Nick Fenton, but both will be available for the following week’s F.A.Cup Fourth Qualifying Round tie.
Nicky Law’s men arrived at the International Athletics Stadium with only thirteen fit players, the squad having been boosted by the loan signing of serial scorer Jake Speight and Bradley Wood opting to ignore the pain barrier and play at the heart of the defence with a broken toe sustained against Chester.
Meadows was chosen to play at right-back for the first time and gave a creditable performance, although crosses for two of the goals emerged from that flank, while Dan Bradley operated much wider than usual and contributed some useful crosses from the right during the course of the game.
There was also a first start of the season for defender Darran Kempson, who had previously only played the last few minutes of the Chester game in midweek after Michael Wylde had been forced to withdraw with a shoulder injury.
With Danny Wishart also injured in that game Alfreton had been further handicapped by a training ground injury to Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, who had been a huge defensive influence since his arrival on loan from Luton Town.
Persistent rain throughout made the surface greasy and both goalkeepers had jittery moments in the opening few minutes, with Ross Atkins fumbling a Meadows back-header and Adam Bartlett not exactly instilling confidence with his first touch as Akinde tried to pick out Speight.
James Curtis calmly turned Meadows’ driven cross back to his keeper in the 13th minute, then at the other end Atkins confidently held a 25 yard rasper from Colin Larkin.
Bartlett had to time his clearance to perfection as he raced well out of goal as Bradley’s 17th minute cross almost succeeded in feeding Akinde, then moments later in response Wood had to touch the ball behind after Larkin’s free-kick had been parried by Atkins and had fallen invitingly to Josh Walker six yards out.
A poor back-pass from Craig Baxter was almost punished by the pouncing Akinde on 32 minutes, then Atkins held a weak James Marwood shot two minutes later.
McGrath dragged his effort wide from 18 yards, then a stretching Akinde almost connected with Bradley’s deep cross at the back post after Meadows’ ball down the right had triggered what was probably Alfreton’s best move of the game.
The last chance of the first half fell to Gateshead’s Walker, who blazed over from Larkin’s cross, but just 20 seconds after the restart Speight went close to scoring for the Reds from another Bradley cross.
Atkins could only punch Larkin’s 55th minute free-kick as far as John Oster, who drew groans from the home contingent by heading wide, then Bradley’s downward header three minutes later from a long Connor Franklin throw was held by Bartlett.
McGrath’s low drive seconds after the penalty appeal had been rejected was held by Bartlett, then Gateshead took a 63rd minute lead when Marwood’s cross from the left skimmed off Wood’s head to deceive Atkins, who could only palm the ball to Larkin for a volley from ten yards.
McGrath’s fouls on Marwood in the 47th minute and Walker 20 minutes from time led to a red card for two bookable offences, and it was pretty much one-way traffic after that as the Tynesiders turned the screw.
The second goal arrived on 78 minutes, with another Marwood cross from the left being lashed home from 12 yards by sub Jordan Hugill, then five minutes later Hugill struck again with a simple header from ten yards in receipt of a Larkin cross.
The score-line, which represented Alfreton’s heaviest defeat of the season, might have been worse for the Reds had Baxter shown more composure in front of goal before heading over Larkin’s 89th minute cross.
ALFRETON: Atkins; Meadows, Wood, Kempson, Franklin, McGrath, Shaw, Law, Bradley, J.Akinde (S.Akinde 80), Speight.
Sub: Andrews. Attendance: 778.