Carlisle United were given a stern test of their mettle at the International Stadium on Tuesday night as they came up against a stubborn Gateshead team who refused to buckle as the visiting side enjoyed the bulk of the possession.
The Blues looked to get their passing game going from the first whistle, with new arrival Brennan Dickenson an ever-willing outlet. Testing deliveries from wide from the former-Exeter playmaker were well dealt with by the Heed defence.
The hosts had efforts from distance in the early exchanges, one of which was comfortably gobbled up by Norman, but it was Carlisle who started to repeatedly probe as they closed the gaps in the middle of the park.
Devine shot wide after he took a neat touch off an inswinging Dickenson cross, and Reilly wasn’t too far away from getting a telling touch to another teaser.
Keeper Magnus Norman positioned himself well for a drilled effort from distance from Longstaff, and his kick sparked a decent spell for the Blues.
And they were rewarded when Kayode kept his composure as a Guy cross hit a defender and looped high. The teenage striker used strength to make the ball his own before clinically clipping it into the back of the net.
Carlisle were left to feel hard done by when Reilly appeared to break the offside trap moments later, only for the flag to go up just as he shaped to go round the keeper.
Away pressure mounted and a deft touch from Tanner took him into a dangerous area. He beat his man, but a sliding challenge blocked the shot just as it left his boot.
Big defender Rod McDonald had a header from a set piece cleared off the line, and it was the away side who head into the break looking the more satisfied.
Long periods of the second half saw a real struggle for dominance, with both sides committed to the tackle in a congested middle third, but Dickenson went close when a 30-yard free kick whistled an inch past the post.
United then used a one-touch passage of play to their advantage when Devine put Mellish on the overlap. He looked for the far corner from the angle as he strode into the box but Guthrie spread himself to save with his legs.
A drop of the shoulder from Alessandra saw him get a sight of the target, but he wheeled away in disappointment as his low drive crept past the upright.
Anderton and Charters had speculative efforts as the Blues remained on top, and the visitors were made to pay for their missed chances when a trialist rattled a stunner into the bottom corner from distance to level the scores.
Things tightened up in every area of the pitch and it was honours even as the whistle blew on a hard-fought encounter.
Gateshead - Trialist (71)
Carlisle United - Kayode (31)
Gateshead - Guthrie, Griffiths, Trialist, Trialist, Trialist, Nicholson, Langstaff, Trialist, Blackett, Olley, Smith. Subs: Hunter, Preston, Pattison, Greenfield, Cranston, Brown, Keating, O’Donnell, Trialist, Trialist, Trialist.
Carlisle United - Norman, Tanner, Anderton (c) (Barnes 89), Devine, Hayden (Hunt 60), Guy, Reilly (Armstrong 82), Mellish (Lightfoot 84), McDonald, Kayode (Alessandra 46), Dickenson (Charters 60). Subs - Farman.
Referee - Mr G Eltringham
Attendance - BCD