Gateshead 2 Hartlepool United 1: Last gasp Liam Noble penalty miss proves costly as Pools' National League hopes continue to slide
Liam Noble missed a last minute penalty as Luke Armstrong's double ensured Gateshead handed Richard Money his first defeat since taking over at Hartlepool United.
Noble had given Pools hope after Armstrong's first half heroics, by sticking away from 12 yards with just four minutes to go. But when handed the chance again four minutes later he hit the post as 10-man Heed hung on.
Manager Money has talked about using his Pools squad to assess his options and it's looks like he's going to be a man of his word over the festive period.
He made three changes at the International Stadium, and it's fair to say there were a few surprises.
Operating with a 4-1-4-1 formation, Carl Magnay was played in midfield with Niko Muir a lone striker. Kenton Richardson came in at right back, Conor Newton was recalled while Lewis Hawkins made his first start of the season after his York City loan recall.
The Magnay experiment - if meant to stifle the opposition - did little to thwart the Heed procession early on. And they made their dominance pay in the 13th minute when Armstrong - who could have been at Pools this season had managerial appointments been different in the summer - bagged his first of two goals on the day.
The Middlesbrough loanee's low shot, which was powerful but quite central, squirmed under the body of Scott Loach, who will be disappointed not to keep it out.
It was almost 2-0 soon after when Robbie Tinkler, another player considered by Pools in the summer, crashed off the underside of Loach's bar from more than 30-yards.
Pools could only stem the tide for so long. It was 2-0 just after the half hour mark when Armstrong bagged his second after an error by Richardson.
With Pools on the attack, and on the front foot, they gifted the possession to Heed, who broke at pace. One long ball over the top caused a hesitant Richardson all kind of problems and he was beaten to the ball by Luke Molyneux, with the ball eventually being slung in to Armstrong, who tapped in unmarked.
To their credit, Pools then began to work a few openings. And they could well have been back in this encounter when a left wing cross found Muir in the area, after some clever movement, but he turned his effort off the underside of the crossbar. The rebound fell for Hawkins, who saw his low shot well saved by Aynsley Pears.
Very few Pools players came out of that first 45 with any credit, with only Muir and Ryan Donaldson, Hartlepool's main threat, looking in any way, shape or form, dangerous.
Having seen his Magnay experiment fail to nullify Steve Watson's men, it was expected Money would change things at half-time. He didn't and it was no surprise to see more of the same in the second half with Pools on the back foot.
With the introduction of Luke James, with his added energy, Pools began to get a foothold in the game. Noble went close with a long range volley after Newton had a goalbound effort blocked before Noble again stung the palms of Pears from distance.
James almost got one back for Pools when his neat turn and shot was smothered by Pears and he went close late on as the keeper palmed away his effort from 30 yards.
Tom White got a straight red card for a late challenge and with that Heed began to implode in a crazy five-minute period.
James was felled in the area by Pears with four minutes to go and Noble stuck home the spotkick for 2-1.
Then as the game ticked over to the 90th minute, Mark Kitching went over in the area and Andrew Miller again pointed to the spot. It looked soft but Pools were happy to take it.
Noble this time, though, put his effort from 12 yards off the outside of the post and wide. And with that the hosts claimed all three points.