Burton Albion were close to getting back to winning ways at the Pirelli Stadium but had to settle for a point as Cody McDonald's strike cancelled out Sam Winnall's first half header to ensure that the points were shared.
After the lacklustre performance at Accrington on Tuesday Brewers boss Paul Peschisolido opted to make three changes to his starting line-up. Aaron Webster, who was replaced at half time in Tuesday's defeat missed out with his calf injury allowing Jimmy Phillips to get a recall to the side. Skipper John McGrath made a welcome return in place of Simon Whaley and club captain Darren Moore was restored to the defence in place of Ryan Austin.
Burton made a bright start and could have been ahead in the seventh minute. Jacques Maghoma made a good break down the centre and played in Russ Penn storming down the right. The midfielder took a touch before drilling in a low shot that was saved by the feet of keeper Alan Julian.
Buoyed by their confident start, Maghoma and Phillips linked well down the left before the former whipped in a cross that had to be headed away to safety by Matt Lawrence.
Gillingham dangerman Adebayo Akinfenwa produced the visitors first moment of danger in the 14th minute. The burly striker got free of his marker to blast in a shot that was too hot for Adam Legzdins to handle, shovelling the ball wide of the post for a corner. The Gills maintained the pressure from the corner kick and after Lawrence's shot from outside the box had been deflected out for another corner the defender rose highest to meet Kevin Maher's corner only to see Russ Penn clear off the line at the far post.
Gillingham continued to push on and young striker Cody McDonald almost added to him impressive tally of goals in the 23rd minute. The Norwich loanee capitalised on a loose ball when it skidded off the head of Tony James and from a wide angle drove a low shot across Legzdins but wide of the far post.
The much needed goal for the Brewers came in the 27th minute. It looked like the chance had gone when Maghoma failed to get a cross in, crowded out on the right side of the penalty. Although his effort was blocked the ball came back out to Andy Corbett. The right back put in a first time cross that was met with a firm header by Sam WINNALL. Although Alan Julian got his hands to it, the ball had just enough power and pace to beat the former Stevenage keeper.
Although the visitors pressed for an equlaiser the Brewers were literally inches from having a two goal lead in the 37th minute. Sam Winnall got himself free for a run on goal but with Maghoma in a good position more central the striker opted to find his team mate. The ball was just behind Maghoma but he managed to turn and shoot between the legs of Julian but the keeper reecovered to drop on the ball before it could cross the line.
Within moments Gillingham were close to an equaliser for themselves. Andy Barcham showed good skills inside the penalty area to work an opportunity to shoot but Albion were fortunate that Scott Malone was tracking back and the Wolves loanee instinctively hacked the ball away for the safety of a corner kick.
Gillingham caused one or two stirs in the Albion defence as the first half came to a close from free kicks into the box. Albion rose to the challenge and made sure of holding on to the lead at half time with a crucial second forty five minutes to come.
Half time: Burton Albion 1-0 Gillingham
A tepid start to the second half probably suited Albion better than the visitors but there was danger in the 52nd minute as Curtis Weston tried to work some magic on the right. He teased his way past Scott Malone and after keeping the ball in play on the touchline put in a low cross that required a hasty clearance. The resulting corner was only partially cleared back to skipper Barry Fuller who saw a drilled shot cleared away from danger.
The visitors took heart from that and Akinfenwa produced a good save from Legzdins in the 55th minute. The striker managed to turn away from Darren Moore and get his shot away but the Brewers stopper was equal to it, pushing it away from the goal.
Albion's response was to go close again through Winnall. Some good interplay between Maghoma and Malone on the left allowed the latter to drill in a low cross that his Wolves team mate flicked on with the ball looping just wide of the far post.
AKinfenwa continued to be a thorn in Albion's side with an intriguing battle against both James and Moore who stood their ground well. Albion had to defend stoutly and Malone had to nick one effort off the toe of a Gillingham striker as he shaped to get his shot away.
Aaron Webster was introduced just before the hour mark as the Brewers looked to get forward and take the game back to Gillingham. Jimmy Phillips was the man to make way with Maghoma moving out to the left hand side to allow Webster to take up a central role supporting Winnall.
The long serving Albion man had an early chance to make an impression as Scott Malone swung in a dangerous free kick that was was aiming for the head of Webster until a Gillingham defender just nicked it away for him to concede a corner.
The GIlls continued to look dangerous from set pieces and Lawrence was again the man that went close in the 76th minute. A corner from the right found him beyond the far post but his header back across goal eluded everyone and slipped past the far post.
Gillingham introduced Dennis Oli for the last thirteen minutes, the former Grays man who put Albion out of the FA Trophy in the last season at Eton Park. It was his team mate McDonald, though who finally broke Albion's resistance in the 78th minute. The lively front man found space in the box to flick the ball past Tony James before drilling a confident right foot effort into the corner of the net.
The Burton response was to throw two strikers on for the last seven minutes. Greg Pearson came on for Winnall and there was a rare appearance for Richard Walker who replaced Russell Penn with Webster moving out wide to make way for the new strike partnership.
The double substitution meant that when Scott Malone picked up an injury with five minutes to go that the Brewers were going to have to finish the game with ten men, It was all set for a nervy finish as Gillingham threw everything forward in stoppage time with man of the match John McGrath getting in a vital challenge to deflect the ball over the bar. There was one final chance for the Gills as McGrath got booked for a challenge that stopped a Gillingham breakaway and Garry Richards headed across goal and past the post.
The Brewers survived to record what could be an important point and with the two sides below them both losing it puts Albion three points ahead of Barnet with games still in hand.
GOALS: Albion - Winnall (27); Gillingham - McDonald (78)