United and Gateshead will have to do it all over again after a grandstand finish at the Kassam Stadium. Trailing 2-0 with time running out United somehow found the heart and character to come back and draw as Deane Smalley and Danny Rose bundled in close-range finishes to make it 2-2.
The key to any FA Cup tie is to start well and put the opposition on the back foot and United almost took the lead in the second minute as the recalled Smalley touched their first corner just the wrong side of the post. Sean Rigg then fired in a shot in the fifth minute which just cleared the bar and the new-look pink FA Cup ball had spent most of the opening stages in the Gateshead half.
With Johnny Mullins at the base of a midfield triangle which allowed Scott Davies and Danny Rose to spring forward and Dave Kitson the focal point of the front three, United were looking sharp but sometimes there is simply nothing you can do about a goal you concede. With 12 minutes gone there seemed little danger as James Marwood, son of Man City's Brian, picked the ball up 35 yards from goal. Marwood took aim and unleashed a magnificent shot which flew into the top left corner and gave Ryan Clarke no chance. A great goal which even drew applause from the home fans and totally changed the complexion of the match.
United should have been level soon after as Rigg sidefooted wide from six yards with the goal gaping before him after quarter of an hour but from Gateshead's goal onwards they started to lose that early swagger for a while, misplacing passes and being beaten to the ball by their Skrill League visitors. Wright limped off after just half an hour, with Josh Ruffels making a first FA Cup appearance and Rose dropping slightly deeper to allow Mullins to move to his more familiar central defensive role.
Gateshead though had their lead by now and were closing everything down as you would expect. It meant a frustrating first half for United fans. Other than a mistimed strike from Rigg right on the whistle they hadn't really looked like getting back on level terms in the first 45 minutes.
Something needed to change and when Tom Newey failed to emerge for the second half suffering from concussion it gave James Constable 45 minutes to try to find that missing spark. The impetus changed and initially at least United forced Gateshead back. On 48 minutes they were denied a goal only by the body/arm of Jamie Chandler on the line as emergency left back Rose blasted in a shot which was destined for the net.Had referee Simpson made a different decision then who knows? Instead with their very next attack Gateshead nicked the ball from a square pass by Davies which was intercepted and played through for the very same Chandler to clip the ball neatly past the advancing Clarke and make it 2-0.
Surely United were out? Someone forgot to tell the players...
Constable almost got his side back into the tie on 55 as he cut to his left and powered in a shot which visiting keeper Adam Bartlett got down quickly to push round the post; Smalley hit the bar on 68 with a header (helped by a little push spotted by the linesman) and with just two men in defence United threw everyone forward. The pace of sub Ryan Williams started to stretch the game and on 77 Smalley gave them a lifeline. David Hunt played a short corner to Kitson who returned the ball for a cross. For once Gateshead's defenders dithered and Smalley was on the spot to lash the ball home and make it 1-2.
It set up a siege and true FA Cup ending. Mullins and Kitson both had efforts cleared off the line in the 82nd minute. Crosses flashed across the goal, Gateshead soaked up pressure and then on 89 minutes Williams crossed and Rigg headed back. Smalley's shot was palmed into the sky by Bartlett. Rigg headed on again and Rose somehow got his body in front of the defenders to knock the ball home.
A wonderful finish and yet another great FA Cup tie. A replay may not be ideal, but with 15 minutes to go United would certainly have settled for it. Credit to Gateshead wh.o gave it everything. We look forward to the rematch a week on Wednesday.
Fifty/50 winning number 310606 wins £703
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels, Stats by OPTA.