Ebbsfleet United 2-0 Gateshead
Gateshead's Blue Square Premier feat will now be decided on the final day of the season on Saturday at home to AFC Wimbledon.
Ian Bogie's side could have condemned Ebbsfleet United to the drop at the weekend by avoiding defeat at their relegation rivals.
Instead the concession of goals in the opening and closing two minutes of the game in Kent condemned Gateshead to a shattering defeat.
Depending on how other results go this week one, three, or in the worst case scenario, four points, could be needed from the last two games.
Football League bound Stevenage Borough, who clinched the Blue Square Premier title at Kidderminster on Saturday, are on Tyneside on Tuesday.
Whatever the outcome of that game Gateshead will go into Saturday's finale against Wimbledon at the International Stadium assuming they stilll need a result.
Bogie, while bitterly disappointed with the performance in the south, preferred to look ahead with safety still in Gateshead's hands.
"Come 5pm on Saturday we could be sitting triumphant or it could be a total tragedy for the club - we have to make sure it is the former," said Bogie.
"We didn't create much at Ebbsfleet and three games without a goal is a concern, but until the game against Kidderminster our recent home form has been good and we have to make home advantage count
"Conceding a goal after 73 seconds gave Ebbsfleet just the lift they were looking for and our game plan went out the window.
"We had plenty of time to come back but the players were apprehensive and nervy. They were up for the game but we fell flat again. Our away record has been a disaster and we now have a mountain to climb.
"Ebbsfleet came out with all guns blazing and got the early goal. After that we struggled to create anything but now is not the time to point fingers - we have to stick together and get the job done.
"We now face two cup finals and everyone has to be up for the fight. Eastbourne's defeat at Kettering has given us another chance and we mustn't pass it up."
A defensive mix-up between goalkeeper Paul Farman and veteran defender Chris Swailes gifted former Carlisle striker Magno Vieira the early opener with a tap in.
Moses Ashikodi was then denied by the woodwork following a superb Farman reaction save, while a disappointing Gateshead rarely threatened.
Peter Winn put an angled drive from the corner of the box wide in the first half and Daryl Clare glanced a header into Cronin's arms when in a good position.
Apart from that there was little to enthuse Gateshead's travelling support, several of whom were in fancy dress for the final away game of the season.
Ebbsfleet finally clinched a rare double when substitute Ricky Shakes raced down the line to pick out Alex Stavrinou who found the net from close in.
"Scoring early helped and we were pretty much in control," said Fleet manager Liam Daish "everyone answered the call and ran themselves into the ground.
"The win was well deserved on a hot day and it has kept our season alive. We are still able to stay up but we have to win our last game at Tamworth to have a chance.
Ebbsfleet United: Cronin, Salmon, Pooley, Crooks, Charles, West (Shakes 78), Stavrinou, Holmes, Bailey, Vieira (Ginty 90), Ashikodi. Subs (not used): Hagan, Heeroo, Wills.
Goals: Vieira (2), Stavrinou (89).
Booked: West, Charles
Gateshead: Farman, Baxter, Heckingbottom, Gate, Curtis, Swailes (Turnbull 76), Richardson (Phillips 60), Ferrell, Armstrong (Wake 74), Clare, Winn. Subs (not used): Provett (gk), Cave.
Referee: Michael Bull (Essex)
Gateshead apply pressure on the Ebbsfleet goal during a corner at Stonebridge Road. Photo by Shaun Smith - http://100groundsclub.blogspot.com.