DOVER 3-2 GATESHEAD
Gallifuoco (37), Bird pen (66), Azeez 88
Vassell (24), Johnson pen (83)
Ade Azeez’ late winner kept alive Dover’s play-off hopes in a thrilling Community Day game at Crabble on Saturday.
The substitute followed up on Anthony Jeffrey’s shot after visiting goalie Dan Hanford spilled the pacy winger’s low shot.
A Giancarlo Gallifouco header and Ryan Bird’s spot kick cancelled out Theo Vassell’s impressive opener, but Danny Johnson’s penalty seemed to have secured a point for the visitors.
However Azeez slotted in two minutes from time to raise Chris Kinnear’s men into the top seven.
The home side started brightly and Bird headed wide from Mitch Brundle’s cross early on.
And Gateshead almost scored their first goal at Crabble this century as debutant Macauley Langstaff prodded wide from Scott Barrow’s cross.
Mitch Pinnock was left wondering how he did not get any contact on Jeffrey’s flashed ball across the box and soon after, Femi Ilesanmi was next to test the Gateshead backline.
The defender burst forward and drilled just wide of Hanford’s far post.
And Dover play-off chances were left hanging by a thread on 21 minutes.
Vassell, in space 30 yards from goal, found the top corner via the post much to home stopper Mitch Walker’s surprise.
Pinnock almost replied instantly for Athletic, firing narrowly wide from outside the area.
And Manny Parry also tried his best to level, heading Brundle’s corner straight into Hanford’s arms.
At the other end, Paddy McLauglin missed a glorious chance to double the visitor’s lead, volleying Barrow’s ball off target with the target gaping.
But it was Gallifuoco to the rescue with a crucial equaliser seven minutes before the break.
The Australian rose highest to bullet a header past a statuesque Hanford from Brundle’s set piece
Boss Kinnear then almost saw his side go ahead moment’s later with Jeffrey and Bird both seeing their shots blocked.
After the break, Vassell almost doubled his tally for the afternoon, curling wide of the top corner.
And another player nearly doubled his goals scored in the match minutes before the hour mark.
Gallifuoco headed Bird’s cross goalwards, but he could not keep his effort on target.
But Bird’s 16th National League goal of the season had Dover ahead for the first time in the game.
Jeffrey teased a foul in the area and Dover’s striker sent Hanford the wrong way from the spot.
But it was another penalty that nearly ended Dover’s play-off hopes.
Brundle clattered Richard Peniket in the box after the substitute latched onto a flick-on, leaving Johnson to slot in the resultant penalty.
However Azeez struck late in the day to hand Dover a vital win and keep alive his side’s promotion hopes..
Earlier, boss Kinnear made two changes to the side that lost to Tranmere on Tuesday night. Nortei Nortey and Bird replaced Liam Bellamy and Azeez, who started as substitutes.
Dover: Walker, Parry, Essam (Marsh-Brown 88), Lokko, Gallifuoco, Brundle (c), Nortey, Ilesanmi, Jeffrey, Bird (Azeez 79), Pinnock (Passley 73).
Subs not used: Daniel, Bellamy.
Gateshead: Hanford, Vassell, Byrne (c), Mellish (York 73), Kerr, Barrow, McLaughlin, Penn, Langstaff (Peniket 63), Johnson, Burrow (Preston 63).
Subs not used: Montgomery, Green.