Striker Jamal Easter was clean through in a one-on-one situation with Notts goalkeeper Kevin Pilkington, who got the better of it with a brave stop.
Who knows what would have happened if Torquay had levelled at that point?
Belying their lowly position at the foot of League Two Torquay had played some crisp football and even gone into the lead for a period in the first half, which silenced the Notts supporters.
Notts manager Steve Thompson abandoned his usual 4-4-2 formation in favour of 4-4-3 and ordered his players to go for goals as they sought to end a miserable home record of six defeats in their last seven Meadow Lane matches.
Notts obliged with an opening goal on 23 minutes when Junior Mendes headed through a smart cross by Laurie Dudfield. But the lead was short-lived.
A dreadful mistake by central defender Alan White let in Easter, whose drive for goal was turned aside by Pilkington at the expense of a corner. From this Torquay debutante Stephen Cooke scrambled the ball over the line, an assistant referee ruling that it had gone over the line before White hooked it clear.
Ten minutes later, Torquay silenced the home fans when their most dangerous forward, Ryan Dickson, controlled the ball beautifully before firing wide of Pilkington.
Notts had to raise their game and it was Dudfield who led the charge. A good effort by him was parried by Martin Horsell and fell to Jay Smith, who side-footed it home from fully 20 yards.
Five minutes before the break Notts hauled themselves level with a finely-taken goal by Andy Parkinson, who had come off the bench to replaced Mendes, who went off with a knee injury.
It was only in the last six minutes that Torquay were finally finished off. In that period, Jason Lee scored twice to bring his season's tally in the League to ten.
The first was laid on superbly by Dudfield's flick and the second was set-up by Parkinson after good work by Gary Silk.