Gateshead 1-1 Tamworth
Gateshead had to share the spoils with Tamworth but remain top of the table ahead of Tuesday's big top three showdown with Wrexham at the International Stadium.
The Tynesiders dominated the first half with some great football but had only James Curtis' 23rd minute goal to show for their efforts.
Disaster then struck. Ben Clark tore his hamstring three minutes into the second period and then fellow central defender Curtis was forced off with a cut above his eye on 70 minutes.
Tamworth, much improved in the second half, seized their opportunity to score the equaliser with Gateshead missing both centre backs.
Conference top scorer Jon Shaw and right back Craig Baxter, on as a substitute, became the makeshift central defensive pairing.
Substitute Gary Mulligan's handball then gave the Lambs the chance to restore parity on 75 minutes.
Gateshead keeper Paul Farman, however, threw himself to his left to pull off a stunning save from Iyesden Christie - only for the linesman to raise his flag and force a retake.
The flag waver deemed Farman had come off his line, a decision even Lambs boss Marcus Law, a former goalkeeper, felt was harsh.
Reprieved, Christie duly took his second opportunity to find the net and deny Gateshead the chance to extend their lead at the top.
"We were so far ahead in terms of ability in the first half that it was like a practice game and we should have been two or three up," said Gateshead boss Ian Bogie.
"Losing both centre halves was a real blow but we didn't start the second half well and Tamworth came back strongly.
"We didn't do enough in the second half but we're still top and now have a massive game at home to Wrexham on Tuesday.
"Ewan Moyes will come in for his debut in place of Clark and we'll have to see if Curtis can be patched up, if not we may have to look at the loan market."
It was the long serving Curtis who gave Gateshead the lead with a glancing header into the far bottom corner from Shaw's cross.
Josh Gillies' delivery from the original corner had been overhit but Shaw retrieved the situation superbly and showed he can create as well as score goals.
A slip by Tamworth captain Paul Green then let in Yemi Odubade but the Nigerian shot the wrong side of the post close in from an angle with only Jonathon Hedge to beat.
Odubade then set up Shaw inside the six-yard box but the ball bobbled off the striker's shins and wide as Tamworth struggled to stay afloat.
Gateshead had given the Lambs a footballing lesson but they couldn't get the second goal to kill off the midlanders.
A great ball from Shaw saw Gillies cut inside menacingly but Tamworth full back Richard Tait got in a crucial tackle before the trigger could be pulled.
A Sam Habergam handball saw Odubade's stinging free kick tipped over the bar by Hedge before the visitors finally registered their first shot at goal in the 45th minute.
Jay Smith's free kick from distance sailed high and wide but it was a more ambitious Tamworth that emerged for the second half.
After Clark's untimely departure the Lambs forced their first corner on the hour and had a great chance to level when Sam Rents' clearance lacked distance.
Ashley Cain was left with only Farman to beat but the Heed keeper spread himself and stayed big to make a crucial block.
A disjointed Gateshead never got going in the second half and Farman had to show good reactions to tip over Francino Francis' bullet header.
It all unravelled from the resultant corner, however, as Mulligan handled in a crowded box to give away a soft penalty.
Christie scored at the second attempt from the spot but Mulligan could then have won it five minutes from time.
Phil Turnbull threaded a pass into Kris Gate who pulled the ball back for Mulligan only for the Irishman to sweep a left foot shot wide of the far post.
Shaw was then inches over the bar from distance as Gateshead's unbeaten home record stretched to a 7th game.
Gateshead: Farman, Odhiambo, Rents, Gate, Curtis (Mulligan 70), Clark (Baxter 49), Gillies (Fisher 83), Turnbull, Shaw, Odubade, Cummins
Subs (not used): Alnwick (gk), Brittain
Goal: Curtis (23)
Bookings: Shaw (70), Farman (76)
Tamworth: Hedge, Tait, Habergam, Francis, Smith, Cain, Mills (St.Aimie 46), Green, Bradley, Shariff, Christie
Subs (not used): McDonald, Patterson, Barrow, Collister (gk)
Goal: Christie (77)
Referee: Kevin Mulraine (Carlisle)
James Curtis heads Gateshead infront.
James Curtis celebrates.
Sam Rents clears.
Josh Gillies shoots in the second half.
Paul Farman saves the initial penalty. Photos by Marin Avery, Simon Barclay and Michael Riddle.