Oxford United 2-1 Gateshead
Gateshead passed their Oxford examination in terms of performance with flying colours but failed where it matters - results.
Just as at Mansfield and Luton Gateshead rose to the occasion in front of a big crowd and former Football League stadium.
But while the display at Field Mill was rewarded with a 2-0 win the trip to the dream spires of the university city mirrored the early season clash at Luton.
The Tynesiders deserved at least a draw at Kenilworth Road and it was the same scenario at the Kassam stadium - instead all they got was two narrow defeats.
Graeme Armstrong cancelled out James Constable's 51st minute opener on Saturday and Gateshead had chances to go on and win the game.
Instead they conceded the harshest of injury time sickeners to come away with nothing after their performance had deserved so much more.
"We had great chances in the second half and had we gone 2-1 up the Oxford fans would have been up in arms and we could have gone on to claim a famous victory," said manager Ian Bogie.
"It was devastating to lose so late in the game but the lads did themselves proud. They were distraught in the dressing room with the result but certainly not the performance.
"Oxford had decent possession but didn't hurt us. Their threat was from long throws and set plays and their goals came from one of each.
"The U's sneaked a win and for us it was a devastating defeat but we are matching the top teams in this league.
"Our effort and commitment was excellent. We have played well in our last three games and more of the same will see us get the result we need at Eastbourne on Tuesday.."
There few first half chances in front of a 6,000 crowd at the Kassam Stadium as Gateshead continued to show defensive solidity in the aftermath of the recent 8-0 defeat at Rushden & Diamonds.
Constable, looking for his 19th goal of the season, had an early shot deflected wide and Rhys Day headed over as Oxford looked to arrest a run of five winless games.
Central defender Chris Swailes then had a chance to put Gateshead ahead three minutes into the second half but headed over and then Constable broke the deadlock from close in.
The goal had come after Day had flicked on a Lewis Chalmers long throw but Gateshead's response was swift.
Armstrong scored for the third consecutive game when he hooked home from 14 yards - the goal given after referee James Adcock had consulted his linesman.
Swailes then put another header over the bar, Armstrong shot across goal when well placed on the right side of the box and substitute Brian Wake also went close.
Gateshead looked the likelier winners but they were undone in stoppage time when Phil Turnbull was harshly punished for a challenge on Antony Tonkin.
Tonkin's free kick was flicked on and then headed back across goal by Constable for substitute Matt Green to head home from close range.
It was a cruel blow for Gateshead as Oxford, 1-0 winners on Tyneside, completed a narrow double to keep their title hopes alive.
Once again the backline put in a good shift with Turnbull pulling the strings in midfield and Armstrong continuing his good form in front of goal up top.
It was a game that should have stretched the unbeaten run to three games but U's boss Chris Wilder was just relieved to see his side get back to winning ways.
"Hopefully this win will kick-start us," said Wilder "I'll take any win at the moment, because as you can see, there is a lot of frustration and edgy performances.
In the second half we didn't really do enough to get the three points, but you take the win no matter how it comes."
Oxford United: Clarke, Chapman, Day (Grant 83), Wright, Tonkin, Bulman (Potter 64), Chalmers, Clist, Deering, Constable, Cook (Green 75). Subs (not used): Turley (gk), Creighton
Goals: Constable (51), Green (90+1)
Booked: Chapman, Potter
Gateshead: Farman, Baxter, Cave, Ferrell, Curtis, Swales, Parkinson (Wake 65), Turnbull, Armstrong (Phillips 83), Clare, Winn (Hurren 65). Subs (not used): Provett (gk), Buchanan
Goal: Armstrong (55)
Booked: Baxter, Clare, Cave
Referee: James Adcock (Nottingham)
Oxford striker Rhys Day gets between Andy Ferrell and James Curtis to head over the bar.
Paul Farman punches clear in a packed Gateshead penalty area. Photos courtesy of Oxford United FC.