IF Gateshead are going to reach Wembley this season for the first time in their history, they must do it in the Blue Square Bet Premier play-offs.
The other avenue was closed in Bedfordshire as an inconsistent Heed meekly bowed out of the FA Trophy at the quarter-final stage.
Favourites Luton Town scored a goal in each half against a Gateshead side unrecognisable from the one which had won at York City in midweek.
For only the second time this season, Ian Bogie’s men failed to find the net, and rarely looked like doing so at Kenilworth Road.
“It was a really disappointing day – the exact opposite to Wednesday night at Bootham Crescent, ” said a frustrated Bogie.
“Luton wanted it more than us. They had more hunger and desire and we never got out of the traps from the 1st to the 90th minute.
“Apart from a first-half Micky Cummins chance we created very little and didn’t look like scoring.
“Luton were full value for the win. We have missed out on the chance to get to Wembley but there is another chance in the play-offs.
“We are one of a number of sides looking to finish in the top five, the play-offs are still very much there for us.”
Gateshead started slowly and conceded a poor goal after just eight minutes when they failed to track the runner following a short free-kick on halfway.
Alex Lawless sprinted away from Sam Rents to cross to the near post, where the unmarked John Paul Kissock was given space to score his first goal for the Hatters.
That set the scene, although Gateshead should have levelled midway through the first half but Cummins’ shot from Craig Baxter’s cross struck Mark Tyler’s legs.
That was as good as it got for the below-par Tynesiders, as a livelier Luton denied them space and bossed the game.
While the Heed had heroes all over the park at York there were few, if any, who stepped up to the plate at Kenilworth Road.
Defensive lapses gave the home side encouragement and Danny Crow hit the post when the ball should never have reached the striker.
A Keith Keane wonder goal – or perhaps a cross – from a free-kick out wide on the hour ended Gateshead’s Trophy hopes.
LUTON TOWN: Tyler; Taylor, Keane, Pilkington, Lawless, Crow, Willmott, Beckwith, Howells, Asafu-Adjaye, Kissock. Subs (not used): Fleetwood, O’Connor, Watkins, Kidd, Henry.
Goals: Kissock 8, Keane 59.
GATESHEAD: Deasy; Rents, Gate, Curtis, Clark, Turnbull, Shaw, Odubade, Cummins, Baxter, O’Brien. Subs (not used): Farman, Gillies, Marwood, Magnay, Chandler.
Attendance: 2, 499.
Referee: T Robinson (England).