CHESTER slumped to a fourth defeat in five matches as Gateshead came from behind to claim a 2-1 victory at the Lookers Vauxhall Stadium.
Jon McCarthy had hoped his Blues' side would put on a performance for the cameras, with BT Sport covering the game live, and it looked promising after 31 minutes when Blaine Hudson fired them ahead.
However, goals either side of half-time from Danny Johnson and Jordan Burrow swung this National League clash in Gateshead's favour, to increase their outside chance of securing a play-off spot.
McCarthy made one change from the side who lost 3-2 at Dagenham last week, suspended full-back Johnny Hunt replaced by Sam Hughes, who slotted in at right-back, Theo Vassell switching to the left.
It was Chester who started the brighter, Wade Joyce dictating play in the middle. Hughes’ 50-yard ball found James Alabi who forced a corner, James Montgomery punching clear Elliott Durrell’s whipped delivery.
Tom Shaw collected a loose ball in midfield and ran at Manny Smith before unleashing a 20-yard drive which flashed wide of the post.
Vassell and Evan Horwood were linking up intelligently on the left, 19-year-old Vassell’s surging run finding Shaw but his cross-shot was too deep for Alabi.
Chester should’ve taken a 12th minute lead, as Durrell’s run and through ball found Shaw but he disappointly drove his shot straight at Montgomery from eight yards out.
Danny Johnson had Heed’s best opening on 18 minutes, but blazed his shot over from 20 yards, before Jordan Burrow had a golden chance but spurned the opportunity from 12 yards.
Durrell dragged his long-range shot well wide on 24 minutes, before nearly opening the scoring a minute as his curling effort narrowly went wide after Joyce’s neat flick.
McCarthy was forced into a 26th minute change as the injured Vassell was replaced by Ryan Lloyd, Horwood reverting to left-back.
Alabi did superbly well to win a 31st minute corner and from the resulting delivery the Blues’ took a deserved lead. Luke George’s fierce shot was deflected into the path of Hudson, who blasted his shot past Montogomery into the top corner from six yards out.
Frustratingly for McCarthy, the Heed equalised within five minutes. Johnson turned Ryan Astles inside-out, dribbled into the area and hit a low shot straight at Liam Roberts, but the Blues’ goalkeeper somehow allowed the ball to squirm underneath him into the net. A moment to forget for the on-loan stopper and Neil Aspin’s were level.
Paddy McLaughlin’s shot sailed over Roberts’ goal, before Wes York’s impressive run nearly found Johnson who was set to give Heed the lead. James Bolton was denied by a back-tracking Lloyd before Manny Smith was cautioned for a poor challenge on Alabi as the two sides went in at half-time all-square.
York’s pace was causing Hudson a headache and he rampaged past his former Wrexham team-mate on 54 minutes but Horwood cut out the danger.
Alabi did brilliantly to shoulder-barge Liam Hogan off the ball, but he couldn’t find the target from an acute angle six yards out.
Gateshead took the lead on 63 minutes, the ball kindly falling to Burrow 10 yards out after a punt downfield and the striker buried his effort past Roberts. York’s 20 yard drive was then comfortably held by Roberts, as the Heed pressed for a third.
Kane Richards came on for Horwood, who had endured a poor game by his standards, before Alabi very nearly found Durrell with a slide-rule pass.
Time was running out for Chester but to his immense credit, Alabi remained a real thorn in the side of Gateshead’s defence.
Once again York terrified the Chester defence with a dribble forward, getting to the byline but his cross found no one in a red shirt. Left-back George Smith caused problems all day for the Blues and his run and cross was dealt with by Roberts.
Lloyd forced an 81st minute corner but there was no real threat from the resulting Durrell delivery, a common theme throughout.
The Blues kept trying to force an equaliser but in all honesty, Gateshead saw out the final 10 minutes in comfortable fashion - despite a late Richards chance - as Chester's slim hopes of a play-off push evaporated.
Chester: Roberts, Hughes, Astles, Hudson, Vassell (Lloyd 26), Joyce, Shaw, George, Horwood (Richards 67), Durrell, Alabi.
Gateshead: Montgomery, Bolton, M Smith, Hogan, Fyfield, G Smith, Mafuta, McLaughlin, York, Johnson (Beere 88), Burrow.
Referee: Joe Johnson