Fleet battled back to a point to close the gap on Eastleigh and seventh place after conceding early at the International Stadium, Chris Bush equalising against his old club.
Garry Hill sprung a surprise in the lineup, with skipper Dave Winfield returning to the starting eleven, as did Ebou Adams, and the two players making way were Corey Whitely and Lawrie Wilson, the latter remaining at home for personal reasons.
In front of a boisterous home following protesting their club’s ownership, Gateshead made a bright start. Top scorer Steven Rigg took advantage of a Bush slip to force a corner after only four minutes and from that, defender Jon Mellish rose unchallenged to head beyond Nathan Ashmore.
With plenty at stake in the play-off race, it was an awful start for the visitors and Gateshead ruled the roost for 20 minutes or so. But Fleet weren’t without their chances and they had a golden opportunity to equalise when Sam Magri took the final pass in a good build-up and his delivery to Gozie Ugwu was very well saved by goalkeeper Ashley Pears. It fell kindly for Michael Cheek but he lashed it over the bar.
Despite that let-off, Gateshead were largely comfortable in a scrappy period until Fleet began to grow into the game a little more. Myles Weston received a yellow card for a clash with Scott Barrow and 15 minutes after that one, Jack Hunter took the same punishment when he brought Ebou Adams down,
Hunter repeated the transgression a few minutes later and might potentially have seen red but the referee preferred to issue a final warning.
The home side’s dominance waned, though Ashmore had to rather improvise when a back pass put him in trouble and he had to shank the ball behind his own goal.
The home goalkeeper was a busy man in the final moments of the half, somehow keeping out Ugwu’s on-target header from a Weston cross. Fleet scrambled to convert the ball as it bounced on the goalline, Winfield touching it against the post, before the referee blew for a foul.
Bush headed over from a Weston free-kick and Adams was denied as he ventured into the box, before another scramble in the six-yard box was again ended by the referee’s whistle.
Gateshead were quick to the ball again at the start of the second-half but Fleet were able to put their stamp on that 45 minutes a lot sooner. Greg Olley advanced to the edge of the box to get a decent shot away that nicked Magri’s leg for a deflection and Winfield had to block Gateshead attempts from the corner.
Fleet had another chance to equalise on 52 minutes when Dean Rance found himself behind the Gateshead defence from a pass but his shot was again dealt with ever so well by Pears.
Pears then tipped Winfield’s header away from under the bar and Hunter mopped up as it seemed Fleet’s luck would be out for the afternoon.
But then on 62 minutes came the goal the visitors deserved. Ugwu supplied the cross that scooted through the box and Bush supplied the final touch to atone for the own goal he scored against the same opposition earlier in the season.
Bush had the ball in the net again moments later but saw it chalked off by the assistant’s flag though both Rance and Weston were adamant it had touched a defender before Bush fired home.
There wasn’t much for Ashmore to do at the other end, though he had to be alert to get a touch on Connor Thomson’s effort while White’s effort from distance was wild and wide.
Hill threw on all three Fleet substitutes and Danny Kedwell put himself about in the final 10 minutes. Ashmore got a little help from the officials towards the end when he seemed to tip over a Barrow delivery but a goal-kick was awarded and both play-off chasers were forced to settle for the point.
EUFC: Ashmore, Magri, Bush, Winfield, King, Rance (Whitely 75), Payne, Adams (Drury 73), Weston, Cheek (Kedwell 80), Ugwu. Subs not used: Moncur, Graham
GFC: Pears, Tinkler, Devitt, Mellish, Barrow, Hunter (Forbes 61), Olley, White, Salkeld, Rigg, Thomson. Subs not used: Foden, O’Donnell, Maloney, McGeoch
Attendance: 798 (82 EUFC fans)