Gateshead 2 Hartlepool United 2: Michael Woods cracker rescues Boxing Day point for 10-man Pools
A second-half Michael Woods cracker ensured Hartlepool United left Gateshead with a share of the Boxing Day spoils.
The midfielder levelled things up with less than 20 minutes on the clock after two long-range Scott Barrow strikes had turned the game on its head, following Liam Donnelly's penalty opener and Blair Adams' needless, if dubious, red card.
On the selection front Craig Harrison included a couple of surprise names in his matchday 16 - throwing skipper Nicky Featherstone back into thee starting XI after injury, and perhaps more of a shock, putting Keith Watson on the bench after four months out with a knee injury.
But having decided to reunite his midfield triumvirate of Lewis Hawkins - back after suspension - Featherstone and Woods, who so often produce the goods when selected together, his plans were thrown into disarray when the returning skipper got injured in the warm up and was replaced in the XI by Devante Rodney.
Tomi Adeloye and James Thorne were also added to the bench after the warm up, with Conor Newton dropping out, seemingly also through injury.
Having stuttered before a ball was kicked, Pools continued in that vein after the referee blew the first whistle.
And they could have been behind within the opening two minutes when Danny Johnson found space in the area - but his shot skimmed past Scott Loach's far post.
It was a let off for Pools, but one they did not seem to heed, with Louis Laing's error allowing the hosts to break through on goal, only for Donnelly to come to his rescue.
Rarely seen in the opposition half for the opening 15 - Pools, against the run of play, edged their way in front from the penalty spot.
A ball into the area saw Rhys Oates tugged down by central defender Neill Byrne and referee Andrew Miller had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Despite a considerable delay in proceedings for an injury to Woods, Donnelly kept his cool to slot home to the right of the keeper and wheel off to celebrate wildly in front of more than 2,000 Poolies who made the 30 mile trip north.
Oates, who has a Jeykll and Hyde 90 last time out against Maidenhead, was tireless in his running in the opening 45. He almost got in on the goalscoring act himself but his tricky run ended in a shot straight at the Heed keeper Dan Hanford.
Steve Watson's side showed little subtlety in their tactics to combat the threat of Harrison's Pools - it was direct, direct, direct as they peppered the two centre-halves with high balls and attempted to get their wide men in over the heads of Adams on the right and Nicky Deverdics on the left.
And while it was an easy ploy to spot, dealing with it proved a whole different ball game for Pools backline.
One such floated ball out wide let in Wes York down the right, but he scuffed a shot wide of Loach and the Pools goal. It was another let off as the reshaped, restructured back four struggled to deal with Heed's strong-arm approach.
Referee Miller was a touch card happy, dishing out three to the home side in the opening 45 for very little, but it was his two to Pools, namely Adams, that changed the course of this one.
The first, for a high foot, was harsh, but the second was even more so, if needless from the defender.
And with that Pools retreated on to the back foot and within minutes were behind. A well worked corner from the left found Barrow 25 yards out and he cracked home, giving Loach absolutely no chance.
Once bitten, twice shy is the old saying. Well, not for Hartlepool.
A Luke Hannent corner again found Barrow 30 yards out of Pools' box, who had every man in their own area, and this time he produced an even better strike, across Loach, who again could not even get close.
Backs to the wall, Pools hung on in there, limiting the home side to hopeful crosses from deep. And even though they didn't look like scoring they did just that, out of blue on 74.
A wonderfully worked move that started with Hawkins, then Rodney, who played an inch-perfect ball through to Woods who showed the composure of a striker in hammering under Hanford for 2-2.
Never mind Pools with 10-men, it was difficult to see who had the man advantage after the leveller as Pools pushed to win it.
And they came with inches of doing so when Rodney cut in the from the right, saw his shot saved, which ballooned up in the air and Woods volley looks destined for bottom corner only for Vassell to clear off the line.
Heed had their own, gilt-edged chance to win it in added time, when a dangerous cross from Pools right found its way to Hannant at the back stick, but Loach was on hand to produce a world-class stop and secure a much-needed point on Pools' travels.