The Heed took a one-goal lead into half-time thanks to JJ O’Donnell’s first league goal since May 2014 after 21 minutes, despite Stephen Thompson striking the bar for the hosts.
Michael Liddle equalised for the Quakers on 78 minutes after a spell of pressure to ensure Gateshead were held to a draw for the second time in under a week.
Mike Williamson opted to make three changes to the side that earned a goalless draw against Southport on the opening day, bringing in Joshua Kayode, Elliot Forbes and JJ O’Donnell for Paul Blackett, Danny Greenfield and Connor Thomson.
The opening stages of the game at Blackwell Meadows proved to be a rather cagey affair, with little in the way of chances to speak of until Will Hatfield tested Brad James with a powerful 20-yard strike, which the Heed stopper held well.
Gateshead then broke the deadlock through O’Donnell’s first league goal in over five years, as Darlo carelessly gave up possession near their penalty area before Olley played in the midfielder who proceeded to blast into the bottom corner via a deflection.
The Heed looked to be in relative comfort for most of the remaining 24 minutes of the half, with Kayode drawing a number of fouls from the Quakers’ defence as he operated in a lone striking role.
Darlington did however, come with inches of finding a spectacular equaliser five minutes before the break as Thompson cut inside before sending a swerving shot that rattled James’ crossbar from 20 yards.
The Quakers grew into the game more in the opening stages of the second half but couldn’t quite create a guilt-edged chance in the first 15 minutes, with Adam Campbell’s free-kick their best effort although that failed to trouble James too badly.
Scott Barrow thought he’d caught a glimpse of the Thursday morning headlines just before the hour mark, spotting Chris Elliott off his line before trying his luck from inside the Gateshead half only to see the ball just clear the crossbar.
O’Donnell was presented with a golden opportunity to make it 2-0 on the hour mark after he blocked an attempted clearance on the edge of box, but mishit his shot as he raced through on goal.
Campbell thought he had found himself clean through on goal with 20 minutes remaining, but Barrow’s last-ditch sliding challenge prevented the forward from pulling the trigger when it looked as if he was certain to find the net.
Darlington made their pressure count with just over 10 minutes to go however as Liddle controlled Jarrett Rivers’ cross at the far post before rifling past James to level the score.
The hosts pressed for a winner late on with the momentum behind them, but the Heed held on for an away draw at Blackwell Meadows.
Darlington XI: Elliott; Trotman (Heaton, 85’), Liddle, Holness (Donawa, 66’), Laing, Galbraith (c), Rivers, Hatfield, Campbell, Thompson, Holmes (O’Neill, 34’).
Unused subs: Watson, Bascome, Heaton.
Goals: Liddle (78’)
Bookings: Laing (33’), Hatfield (82’)
Gateshead XI: James; Nicholson, Lees, Williamson, Barrow (c); Oliver, Forbes (Greenfield, 72’); Olley, Agnew, O’Donnell (Thomson, 79'); Kayode.
Unused subs: Blackett, Guthrie, Nelson.
Goals: O’Donnell (21’)
Bookings: Lees (53’)
Referee: Adam Williamson
MOTM: Joshua Kayode