Gateshead 3-0 Grays Athletic
A Daryl Clare hat-trick saw Gateshead move five points clear of the relegation trapdoor ahead of Tuesday's Blue Square Premier derby at York City.
The victory over Grays Athletic was a comfortable one as Gateshead kept a clean sheet following two five goal defeats in their last two games at Brentford and Stevenage.
Clare scored a beauty with his left foot after seven minutes, headed the second just before the hour and then deflected Craig Baxter's strike into the bottom corner late on.
It was a master class of finishing from the experienced former Republic of Ireland U.21 striker who had broken his duck for Gateshead with a brace the previous weekend at Stevenage.
The on loan Mansfield Town front man was the catalyst for a vital victory against a Grays side in disarray and with just two league wins all season.
At a windswept and rainlashed International Stadium Gateshead were not at their best but had enough in their locker to beat a Grays side who played most of the second half with ten men.
"The conditions dictated it was never going to be a great game of football," said manager Ian Bogie "but all you can ask is to get the three points and to score three goals is a bonus.
"Clare took his goals very well. He is a proven striker at this level and a natural goalscorer whose fitness levels have improved as he has played more games.
"It was only 1-0 when their lad was sent off but I was confident we would have added to Clare's first half strike had Grays kept 11 on the field.
"Farman made a superb save in the first half but their only other chance came from an Andy Haworth back pass and they lacked a creative force."
Clare showed all of his guile when he took a long ball down the right channel from Darren Williams, checked inside and then curled a left foot shot inside the far post.
It should have been game over minutes later when the unmarked Graeme Armstrong headed a pinpoint Craig Baxter cross against the post from nine yards.
A new look Grays were shambolic early on but rode their luck and a deflected Glenn Poole free kick saw Farman make a fine one handed reaction save low to his right.
Grays striker Fola Onibuje was booked twice in three minutes early in the second half for poor challenges on Curtis and Williams and left his side with a mountain to climb.
Clare immediately increased the visitors woes when he headed Baxter's right side cross into the bottom corner.
Ten man Grays offered little offensively in atrocious conditions and Curtis went close when he headed another Baxter cross over the bar at the back post.
Baxter' 78th minute angled shot was then turned into the net by the predatory Clare for his hat-trick and then substitute Armand One had an effort ruled out for offside.
Gateshead will now attempt to become the first side to win at York City this season, though they will have to do so without inspirational central defender Curtis.
A fifth booking has given Curtis his second ban of the campaign which should see Chris Swailes return to the centre of defence.
That will give Gateshead a vastly experienced central defensive partnership with Swailes playing alongside Darren Williams for the first time.
Both have played in the Premier League, Swailes briefly and Williams over a century of games for Sunderland, and there are likely to be few other changes.
Williams, like midfielder Phil Turnbull, will be returning to Bootham Crescent having previously played for the Minstermen.
York's Gateshead-born striker Richard Brodie also picked up a fifth booking in Saturday's 1-0 win at AFC Telford and will miss the return game with his hometown club.
"Arguably the stand out player from each side, who would have been in direct opposition to each other, will be missing," added Bogie.
"We should have beaten York at our place earlier in the season when they were reduced to ten men - a result that kick-started their season.
"They haven't looked back since, are fifth in the table and in good form with four straight wins but we will go there with a positive attitude and look to win the game.
"They haven't lost at home yet so that is a record to be broken. We will be set up to attack them and we have shown we can score goals away from home."
Gateshead: Farman, Baxter, Cave, Gate (Francis 82), Curtis , Williams, Haworth, Turnbull, Armstrong (Mackay 64 6), Clare (One 79), Winn
Subs: (not used) Provett (gk), Swailes
Goals: Clare (7, 57, 78)
Bookings: Curtis, Clare
Referee: Dean Moharab (Cheshire)
By Jeff Bowron
Grays striker Fola Onibuje is sent off during Gateshead's 3-0 win over the Essex outfit at the International Stadium. Photo: Steven Hadlow.
Hat-trick hero Daryl Clare celebrates his opening goal against Grays Athletic. Photo by Steven Hadlow.