Gateshead 2-3 Barrow
After excellent defensive displays at Mansfield and Barrow the costly individual errors returned as Gateshead giftwrapped the Bluebirds all three goals in this FA Trophy third round replay.
A penalty, an own goal and a cross from wide on the left that was allowed to drift into the far corner untouched sealed the Tynesiders feat.
A first goal for the club from James Sinclair and top scorer Daryl Clare's first in six games proved insufficient to keep Gateshead on the Wembley trail.
The third clash between the two sides in the last seven weeks was another tight, end-to-end affair but after two draws at Holker Street Barrow came out on top on Tyneside.
"You can't defend the way we did and expect to win games of football," said Gateshead coach Paul Thompson "we didn't defend well or play well, and were laboured.
"We shouldn't have given away a penalty in that area of the box and the own goal was one of the worst I've ever seen.
"We didn't play as a team. There was no communication or cohesion and it was a massive opportunity lost.
Thommo believes the loss of inspirational captain Kris Gate was a defining factor.
"We were under no pressure during the opening 20 minutes and you don't realise how much you miss Kris Gate until he's not there.
"It was a big game but, unlike on Saturday, we didn't rise to the occasion. We'll have three or four players back for the trip to Hayes & Yeading - a game where there will be no need for a team talk."
Gateshead had opened brightly on a pitch in remarkably good condition given the recent wintry weather and Gateshead Thunder's first home game three days earlier.
The lead came after just seven minutes when Clare's blocked shot spun fortuitously into the path of Sinclair who cilinically sidefooted into the bottom corner from 14 yards.
Phil Turnbull's ball down the left then released Brian Wake but the striker over cooked his cross with Clare and Sinclair both unmarked and ready to pounce.
Gate then had a great chance to double the lead midway through the half from Craig Baxter's pinpoint cross only to put his eight yard diving header over the bar.
Barrow hadn't mounted a serious attack until joint player-manager Darren Sheridan shot over from distance, but when Gate limped off a minute later with a thigh strain the balance of power shifted.
A misplaced Turnbull pass on halfway saw Jason Walker's cushioned header put Mark Boyd in on goal only for Paul Farman to make a crucial save.
The first half then ended disastrously for central defender Carl Jones, making his first home appearance since August, and Gateshead.
Jones was beaten in the air by Boyd on 36 minutes allowing Walker to get in to the right side of the box where he was unceremoniously dumped to the ground by Farman who had raced off his line.
Walker sent the Tynesiders keeper the wrong way from the spot and for the last ten minutes Gateshead's hapless defending was a throwback to the previous home game against Kettering which also included an own goal.
Barrow new boy Simon Wiles ran at the home defence and got between Baxter and James Curtis to hit a shot from just inside the box that clipped the top of the bar.
It was now all Barrow and a great ball from Boyd left full back Simon Spender well placed in the final minute of the half on the right edge of the penalty area.
However with only one Barrow player in the box Spender's volleyed cross should have caused few problems only for Jones, facing in the direction of the cross, to slice his attempted clearance into his own net.
The ball had spun off the top of the defender's left boot and looped agonisingly over Farman before taking an age to drop into the bottom corner of the net.
Not for the first time Gateshead had self imploded but Ian Bogie's men were back on level terms during a snow storm three minutes into the second period.
Jones had been replaced by Chris Swailes at half-time and it was another substitute, Alex Francis, whose low cross was bundled home by Clare at the back post.
Turnbull then picked up a loose ball in midfield to drive at the Barrow defence. His pass found Francis who took the ball into the box before finding Sinclair whose first time shot was turned past the post at full stretch by Tim Deasy.
It was Gateshead's best move of the game and Francis, impressive as Gate's replacement, shot straight at Deasy from the far corner of the box as the home side turned the screw.
Sinclair's corner was then headed goalwards by Turnbull only for Clare to send a header inches past the angle of post and bar.
Barrow's attacking threat was now limited but when Bond arked a ball into the box Curtis for once failed to deal with the situation.
With Walker unsuccessfully lunging to get a foot on the ball Bond's effort drifted untouched into the far corner - another desperate goal to give away from a Gateshead perspective.
Nottingham referee James Adcock and his linesman then inexplicably failed to give the clearest of penalties in injury time when Curtis tripped Barrow sub Greg Bundell four yards from goal.
It was a small crumb of comfort, especially as Curtis would have been sent off having already been booked, and Gateshead can now focus solely on survival in the Blue Square Premier.
The other silver lining on a disappointing night saw fellow strugglers Eastbourne, Ebbsfleet and Grays all lose in the league while Chester City failed to turn up at fellow strugglers Forest Green Rovers.
If Chester's 2009 / 10 record is expunged then Gateshead, having lost twice against the Deva Stadium club, would be the main beneficiaries.
Gateshead: Farman, Baxter, Robinson, Gate (Francis), Curtis, Jones (Swailes), Sinclair, Turnbull, Wake, Clare, Williams
Subs (not used): Provett (gk), McDermott, Cave
Goals: Sinclair (7), Clare (48)
Paul Farman comes out on top in a one-on-one with Barrow midfielder Mark Boyd during the first half.
Alex Francis contests a high ball with Bluebirds striker Jason Walker. Photos by Steven Hadlow.