Cambridge United completed a Wembley double as they sealed their return to the Football League after a nine-year absence.
Goals by Liam Hughes and Ryan Donaldson, against his old club, put the U’s in control of the play-off final before Gateshead’s veteran striker Jack Lester pulled one back to set up a tense final 10 minutes for Richard Money’s men. However, Gateshead could not find an equaliser and their 54-year wait to regain Football League status goes on.
It was Cambridge’s second victory at the stadium in less than two months after they beat Gosport 4-0 in March to lift the FA Trophy.
Former Newcastle United trainee Donaldson, who moved from Gateshead to the Abbey Stadium last summer, almost gave the U’s an early lead but Adam Bartlett tipped away his long-range shot.
Gateshead, who were 19th in the Conference table when Gary Mills took over as manager in September but finished the season in third place, settled after their early scare and began keeping possession well and causing problems.
James Marwood twice went close from outside the area before Jamie Chandler worked goalkeeper Adam Smith.
Smith, on loan from Premier League newcomers Leicester City, had to be alert early in the second half to keep out another Marwood attempt. But Cambridge took the lead after 51 minutes when Donaldson’s cross drifted over the keeper for Hughes to head home from two yards out.
The second goal came in the 71st minute after Ben Clark brought down Donaldson, who curled home the free-kick from 22 yards.
Former Nottingham Forest striker Lester, who took the field two minutes before Donaldson’s strike, reduced Gateshead’s arrears when Liam Hatch’s header was parried by Smith and the 38-year-old headed the loose ball home from close range.
An injury to Cambridge defender Ian Miller saw the U’s finish the game with 10 men but, even though seven minutes of stoppage time was added for the incident, Gateshead could not find the goal that would take it to extra time.
Cambridge United: A Smith; Roberts, Miller, Coulson, Taylor; Champion, Berry (Chadwick, 65), Donaldson, Elliott (Cunnington, 76); Sam-Yorke (Dunk, 45), Hughes. Substitutes not used: Bonner, Chambers.
Gateshead: Bartlett; Magnay, Curtis, Clark, Baxter; Chandler (Lester, 69), Turnbull, Maddison (O’Donnell, 58), Marwood; Oster, Larkin (Hatch, 58). Substitutes not used: Walker, Ramshaw.
Referee: P Bankes (Merseyside)