Gateshead went agonisingly close to reaching the second round of the FA Cup for the first time in 13 years at League Two high-flyers Oxford United.
The better side at the Kassam Stadium for 75 minutes the Tynesiders merited the two-goal advantage handed to them by James Marwood and Jamie Chandler strikes.
Oxford, however, pulled a goal back through Dean Smalley 13 minutes from time and then Danny Rose poached a 90th-minute equaliser to deny the Heed at the death.
The two sides will go head-to-head again on Tyneside on Wednesday week, November 20th, the winners facing a trip to Skrill Premier outfit Wrexham in the second round.
Boss Gary Mills was frustrated at not being able to celebrate victory at the first attempt, but was delighted with the display from his side.
“It was harsh and cruel to have a win snatched away from us at the end as we had played so well and been the better side,” said Mills. “I said we would come to Oxford and play our own game and we did that. The players were exceptional but it wasn’t a case of raising our game against a top League Two side.
“We have put in this level of performance on a regular basis for some time now which is why we have had the results we have had. We worked hard, kept the ball well and scored two good goals away from home.
“We’re disappointed not to have won and we’ve now got to finish the job at our place. The players were down at the end after going so close but we’ll be up for replay. We have home advantage and a lot of players who could play in League Two.”
Marwood got Gateshead off to a flyer with a stunning 30-yard strike into the far corner 12 minutes in before Larkin’s weighted through ball saw Chandler make it two six minutes into the second half.
But Heed fell asleep at a short corner, big centre-half James Curtis was pulled out of position and Smalley turned home David Hunt’s cross.
And unfortunately for Mills’ men, a superb save by Adam Bartlett saw the ball loop into the air for Rose to head home the equaliser on the line.