And the absence of strikers Mark West and Gary Abbott, who between them have scored 19 league goals this season, gave the troubled Tynesiders the fingerhold they needed to begin a desperate climb away from the relegation zone.
The Rebels enjoyed the lion's share of possession but came off worst in a battle decided by sporadic outbursts of sniper fire. They showed character, however, by fighting back after trailing to goals in the 46th minute by Paul Thompson and Steve Harkus 15 minutes later.
But the responsibility for Slough's goals fell mainly on the young shoulders of 19-year-old Lloyd Owusu who lacked the polish to put away two good chances either side of half time. After losing their way in the aftermath of the second breakaway goal, the Rebels got a well-earned equaliser as Gateshead defender Paul Hague was pressured into conceding an own goal in the 84th minute.
Even four minutes of time added on were not enough to stop the game slipping through Slough's hands.
With West still unfit after sustaining an ankle injury in the FA Cup defeat at Hayes three weeks ago and Abbott starting a three-match suspension, manager Brian McDermott had the perfect opportunity to restore his other `Big Bertha', ex-Aylesbury striker Cliff Hercules, to Slough’s attack.
He chose instead to pair the raw talent of Owusu with the bluster of Byron Walton. Hercules was moved up front five minutes before half time after Walton had suffered in a clash with Gatehead's keeper Steve Harper, on loan from Newcastle United. The reshuffle also saw Gary McGinnis, covering the gap left by the injured Simon Stapleton, moved out of midfield, where he impressed, back into the defence.
Understrength Slough were unable apply a stranglehold in the first half which ended with the best chance falling to Owusu in injury time. Put through for a classic one-on-one with Harper, the teenager tried to flick the ball home when perhaps a good old-fashioned thrash might have done better a Premiership standby.
Gateshead made the difference tell 25 seconds after the restart when defender Thompson romped away to lob the ball over Paul Wilkerson's head. Despite all their possessional advantage the Rebels were never able to put enough pressure on Harper.
They were punished again when a quick break down the right saw the ball fall neatly for Harkus who took one step forward before burying a left footed shot.
Heads went down before the Rebels rallied for the final 20 minutes. Eventually good work on the right allowed Blackford to fire in a cross which panicked Hague, under pressure from Hercules and Owusu, into turning into his own net.
Gateshead Line up
Harper, Wrightson, Dowson, Robson, Hague, Kitchen, Conlon, Harkus, Thompson, Lowe, Rowe. SUBS: Connolly (for Conlon, 61), Watson, Pearson (for Robson, 35)