Gateshead 0-1 Luton Town
Gateshead's big game against former League Cup winners Luton Town went the way of the form book, though few in the largest crowd of the season at the International Stadium would accept the Hatters deserved the spoils.
A crowd of 1,218, almost half from Luton, saw Gateshead run the former top flight club all the way but paid the price for missed chances and a costly error from goalkeeper Paul Farman on the half hour.
Luton looked distinctly ring rusty and struggled to get their game together while Gateshead dominated without finding a breakthrough despite a healthy 15 attempts at goal.
Just as at Forest Green Rovers the previous week Gateshead paid the price for not being clinical in front of goal but would still have taken a point but for Farman's unfortunate aberration.
There was no danger when Claude Gnapka's innocuous low 29th minute cross was fumbled by the young keeper, the ball slipping through his hands and legs and just over the line.
It was a huge setback following on from captain Kris Gate being stretchered off in the 17th minute with a gashed ankle.
The defeat prevented Gateshead from climbing out of the relegation zone but, while frustrated by the result, manager Ian Bogie was far from disheartened.
"You can't legislate for the type of bizarre goal we conceded but that apart we were by far the better side but didn't take our chances," said Bogie.
"The performance was excellent. We've asked all the questions, had 80% of the play and had untold chances but didn't capitalise.
"I'm proud of the lads but lady luck isn't smiling on us. We did well all across the park and if we can perform at that level and take our chances we'll be alright."
"Graeme Armstrong was immense up front and Phil Turnbull did well in midfield but there were a number of pleasing performances.
"I am convinced that if we maintain this standard against lesser sides than Luton Town - and take our chances - we will be alright."
Armstrong hit the Luton bar after just 21 seconds when his misdirected left side cross drifted over Hatters keeper Kevin Pilkington.
It would have been a fluke goal but, typically, when you are struggling at the wrong end of the table the ball stayed out while Luton enjoyed a huge slice of good fortune - albeit self induced from Gateshead's perspective - for what turned out to be the winner.
In the second minute Daryl Clare almost volleyed home from six yards from Turnbull's measured lob into the danger area as Gateshead opened with all guns blazing.
Long range efforts from Neale McDermott and Gate kept the momentum going until the latter had to leave the field prematurely.
James Curtis took over as captain and the lively Armstrong was just off target with a long range sideways volley before the deadlock was broken in bizarre style.
Armstrong then had a great chance from McDermott's pinpoint set piece but put his six yard free header straight into the arms of a grateful Pilkington.
The pattern continued in the second half with Wayne Phillips' shot blocked by George Pilkington while Tom Craddock was wide from Matt Barnes-Homer's cross at the other end.
Turnbull drilled a 25 yard shot over the bar on the hour and then Alex Francis's deflected shot from just outside the penalty area found the net only to be ruled out for offside.
Gateshead continued to plug away and another chance went begging when Clare looped a gentle header towards Pilkington from Baxter's free kick when Armstrong was better placed.
Luton were non-existent as an attacking force and Phillips shot wide from 14 yards on the turn and then Francis shot wide of the near post.
It had become increasingly obvious that the equaliser was not going to come and that was confirmed in injury time when Phillips had a shot blocked after a series of head ons.
Luton had ground out a fortuitous victory and Gateshead will now look to get back to winning ways at home to Kettering Town on Tuesday.
"We looked a bit rusty and were not good enough with the ball,"admitted Hatters boss Richard Money "but there was a great deal of commitment and honesty and we got the result we wanted.
"Gateshead have had three games recently and it was telling as they were much sharper for periods of the game.
"But at the end of the season people will see the result not the performance. The back four and goalkeeper were excellent but the rest of the team were not as good as we know they can be."
Gateshead: Farman, Baxter, Robinson, Gate (Francis 17), Curtis, Bains, McDermott (Richardson 67) (Williams 90) Turnbull, Armstrong, Clare, Phillips
Subs: (not used) Provett (gk), Jones
Luton Town: K.Pilkington, Blackett (Newton 13), G,Pilkington , Gnapka, Howells, Murray, Hall, Jarvis, Keane, Barnes-Homer (Nwokji 86), Craddock (Nelthorpe 82)
Subs: (not used) Gore (gk), Poku
Referee: Richard West (Beverley)
Graeme Armstrong and Daryl Clare provide an aerial threat to the Hatters defence.
Wayne Phillips fires in a shot during the second half as Gateshead search for an equaliser. Photos: Steven Hadlow