Gateshead 2-1 Barrow
Gateshead were the victors in another epic battle with Barrow but the real winners were the 503 in attendance at the International Stadium on this cold February night.
The fans were treated to a truly magnificent game that was a thrill a minute spectacle and the fact that Gateshead came out on top was the icing on the cake.
Both sides contributed hugely to this Blue Square Premier thriller and Barrow will be wondering how they created so many chances yet scored only one goal.
Gateshead rode their luck, particularly in the first half, and while Barrow should have had more goals the Tynesiders also had opportunities to add to their two goal tally.
First half goals from Peter Winn and Phil Turnbull were enough to earn a priceless 2-1 win which was protected by a string of fine saves from Paul Farman.
At the other end debutant Andy Parkinson and Brian Wake were both denied by Tim Deasy when through on goal as Gateshead looked to put the game to bed.
In the end an acrobatic one handed Farman save from Phil Bolland's close range header denied Barrow an equaliser in the 6th minute of injury time.
"It was refreshing to see two teams going hell for leather trying to win a game of football and we're delighted to get the three points," said Gateshead boss Ian Bogie.
"Barrow are a dangerous side and we've done well to take four points off them. They will be disappointed not to have got something out of the game.
"I'm delighted with the win. The lads showed plenty of commitment and desire to pick up a big three points and Farman's save at the end was out of the top drawer.
"We needed to get our four game home run off to a winning start and we have managed to do that. It was a great game but a frustrating one to watch as a manager as it was so open."
The first half was played at a blistering pace and for the second consecutive game Gateshead were fortunate to take a 2-1 interval lead.
The difference on this occasion was that the players were determined to see the job through and they got their reward when the final whistle saw ecstatic scenes on the terraces.
A flurry of free kicks had punctuated the early play before Gateshead took a 7th minute lead for the second consecutive Tuesday against Barrow.
The recalled Craig Baxter's run ended inside the box but when the ball broke to former Tranmere Rovers winger Parkinson the execution of the cross was perfect.
Parkinson had only signed hours before kick-off and his dinked ball to the back stick saw on loan Scunthorpe winger Winn head powerfully into the roof of the net.
Nick Chadwick, rightly, had an effort ruled out for offside at the other end but there was mayhem when Stockton referee Paul Davison prevented Barrow from levelling three minutes later.
The official whistled for a foul on Mark Boyd as the midfielder's 25 yard strike was travelling goalwards and into the bottom corner with Farman beaten.
Instead of awarding the goal the referee handed Barrow a free kick which was quickly taken to leave Jason Walker with only Farman to beat.
In what was to become a familiar pattern Walker shot wide and Gateshead immediately raced upfield with Parkinson showing a great touch from Winn's lofted ball into the box.
Unfortunately the winger smashed his left foot shot over the bar and when Wayne Buchanan gave away a free kick Farman had to save Chadwick's strike low to his right.
Winn was then controversially booked for diving inside the box after he had pounced on a backpass before Barrow again opened up the home defence.
The influential Boyd sent Walker clear in the inside right position but the striker's low cross failed to pick out Chadwick with Gateshead light on numbers at the back.
The wily Darren Sheridan's pinpoint free kick then picked out Walker who should have done better than head over the bar from eight yards.
Barrow were bossing the midfield and playing some impressive football and they were in again when a Buchanan backpass from the side of the box fell short.
Walker nipped in but lost possession when Farman stuck out an arm as the Bluebirds' leading scorer attempted to go round the Gateshead keeper.
The pressure had to tell and it did ten minutes from the interval when Chadwick's through ball on half way penetrated a high Gateshead back line.
Walker skipped free and this time got the better of the stranded Farman to shoot into an empty net.
Gateshead responded when Turnbull took Winn's inside ball to hammer a low 30 yard drive towards the bottom corner which Deasy tipped around the post at full stretch.
It was rip-roaring stuff and Barrow should have taken a 41st minute lead when Boyd showed good feet in midfield for Andy Bond to pick out overlapping full back Simon Spender.
The cross was pinpoint only for the unmarked Chadwick to wastefully volley over the bar from six yards when it seemed easier to score.
It was another bad miss and the Cumbrians were made to pay a minute later when Andy Ferrell did well to rescue an under-hit Baxter pass.
Turnbull then had time to set his sights and the midfielder unleashed a tremendous 28 yard drive that flew into the top corner - a stunning strike and a fitting matchwinner.
On loan Darlington defender Rikki Bains replaced Buchanan before the hour and his first touch, a miscued backpass, almost gifted Barrow a second equaliser.
Chadwick squared the ball to strike partner Walker who again was profligate with his finishing as he shot wide from ten yards with the goal at his mercy.
Deasy had to save Parkinson's glancing header from Baxter's cross and then Gateshead central defender Curtis was fortunate to stay on the pitch for the second consecutive game against Barrow.
Curtis clipped Walker's ankles in the 68th minute to prevent the front man from picking up another defence splitting through ball but, despite being last man, was shown only a yellow card.
Gateshead's luck for once appeared to be in and Daryl Clare's through ball put Parkinson in on goal only for Deasy to block as the wide man attempted to go round him.
Bond's diagonal ball then saw Spender cut inside home debutant Paul Heckingbottom to set up Walker whose first time shot from the edge of the box was well saved by Farman.
Walker was in again, this time inside the box, but his shot was deflected just wide while Wake was played in by Winn in the 90th minute only for Deasy to again come out on top in a one-on-one.
An excessive six minutes of injury time only heightened the anxiety in what had been a superb 90 minutes and it took a stunning last gasp save from Farman to ensure it was Gateshead who were celebrating at the final whistle.
"The game ebbed and flowed but we created a host of chances and if you don't take them then you pay the price," said disappointed Barrow joint-manager Dave Bayliss.
"We created more in one night than in four games and both Chadwick and Walker could have walked away with the matchball.
"It is hard to take and the referee didn't help our cause as he ruled out a perfectly good goal and then failed to send Gateshead's centre half off midway through the second half.
"Gateshead had a couple of good chances but I am very frustrated with this defeat as we should have come away with a victory."
Gateshead: Farman, Baxter, Heckingbottom, Ferrell, Curtis, Buchanan (Bains 57), Parkinson (Sinclair 73), Turnbull, Wake, Clare (Armstrong 80), Winn
Subs (not used): Provett (gk), Francis
Goals: Winn (7), Turnbull (43)
Bookings: Winn (22), Curtis (68), Clare (75), Armstrong (90)
Shots / headers ON: 6
Shots / headers OFF: 2
Barrow: Deasy, Spender, Jones, Bolland, Bond, Boyd (Rutherford 73), Walker (Logan 89), Pearson, Sheridan, Jelleyman, Chadwick (Powell 80)
Subs (not used): Tomlinson (gk), Wiles
Goal: Walker (35)
Booking: Jelleyman (62)
Shots / headers ON: 4
Shots / headers OFF: 8
Referee: Paul Davison (Stockton)
Peter Winn heads home Gateshead's 7th minute opener from Andy Parkinson's measured cross.
Barrow goalkeeper Tim Deasy dives at the feet of Gateshead striker Brian Wake with Winn in the background. Photos by Martin Avery.