Eastbourne Borough 2-1 Gateshead
It was billed as a 'must not lose' game but Gateshead made the long haul back through the night from the south coast with nothing to show for their efforts.
The Tynesiders were blown away at a gusty Priory Lane when they conceded two goals in three minutes just past the hour.
Craig Baxter replied with a long range free kick with 19 minutes left but Gateshead were unable to force an equaliser.
The defeat kept Eastbourne's survival hopes alive with seven clubs scrapping it out to avoid the last two relegation places.
Gateshead will now look to make home advantage count in the final month with four of the final six games at the International Stadium.
An unprecedented overnight stay for a midweek away match failed to produce a dividend and three points are now all the more important from Saturday's home game against mid-table Cambridge United.
Gateshead assistant manager Jeff Wrightson was delighted with his side's first half performance by the Sussex seaside but was far from happy with the second 45 minutes.
"Our second half performance cost us the game," said Wrightson "we were nowhere near good enough and didn't compete in any area.
"The players were excellent in the first half facing a strong wind but we were really poor after the break and produced very little.
"We limited Eastbourne to one threat in the first half and we told the players at half-time not to waste all their good work.
"But Eastbourne were far more competitive than us after the restart. There was a lack of passion and desire in a massive game which is totally unacceptable.
"We didn't apply any pressure with the wind at our back and conceding two goals in three minutes left us with a mountain to climb."
Jim Provett was handed his first start in goal for six months after Paul Farman had to drop down to the bench due to illness.
While Borough dominated possession in the first half they were generally kept at arms length as Gateshead employed a new formation.
The usual 4-4-2 was replaced by big men Brian Wake and Graeme Armstrong playing up front with Daryl Clare playing in the hole.
The fit again Paul Heckingbottom was recalled at left back while Gavin Hurren was given only his second start in midfield.
Jamie Taylor had two efforts for the home side early on but Gateshead were defending well as a team and it took Eastbourne 20 minutes to force the first corner.
Gary Elphick's header from the flag kick was deflected wide and then Taylor headed wide a minute later.
Armstrong had Gateshead's only first half effort in a rare break but Danny Knowles saved comfortably at his near post.
Late home pressure saw Provett tip Simon Weatherstone's 30 yard drive over the bar while Taylor had a shot deflected wide in first half injury time.
Armstrong almost made the breakthrough five minutes after the restart when he was put in by Clare only for Knowles to make a fine save.
Gateshead, however, were hit by a double whammy when Borough scored twice inside three minutes just past the hour to set up victory.
Referee Stuart Burt initially turned down penalty appeals but he changed his decision after the linesman flagged for an infringement by Paul Heckingbottom.
Weatherstone powered the spot kick down the middle as Gateshead protests were turned down and it soon got a whole lot worse for the Tynesiders.
With no-one on the back post Matt Smart volleyed home from close in after a Matt Crabb corner had been flicked on - but Gateshead were back in it following a Ben Austin foul on Wake.
Baxter's 71st minute long range set play found the top corner and only a superb Knowles save from Wake prevented the equaliser.
Gateshead piled on late pressure but another top drawer Knowles save denied substitute Peter Winn whose 25 yard shot bounced just in front of the Borough keeper.
Wake then had the chance to claim a precious point in injury time but shot wide and Wrightson is aware his side have to make home comforts count in the final month.
"Losing this game is a major setback and we now have to show character and determination to bounce back against Cambridge," he said.
"We have a decent home record and it is that which will keep us in this league. Survival is still very much in our own hands."
Eastbourne Borough: Knowles, Baker, Jenkins, Austin, Elphick, Smart, M.Crabb, Weatherstone, Taylor ( Enver 81), Atkin (Benjamin 90), Rooney (Brown (78). Subs (not used): Johnson, Rowe
Goals: Weatherstone (62-pen), Smart (65)
Shots On: 6, Shots Off: 5, Corners: 7
Gateshead: Provett, Baxter, Heckingbottom, Ferrell, Curtis, Swailes, Hurren (Winn 67), Turnbull, Armstrong, Clare (Phillips 67), Wake. Subs (not used): Farman (gk), Parkinson, Cave
Goals: Baxter (71)
Shots On: 6, Shots Off: 2, Corners: 3
Referee: Stuart Burt