FC Halifax Town drew their sixth consecutive game as a dramatic match at the Shay ended 2-2 against Gateshead.
There’s still nothing between these teams, who will feel a draw does them few favours in the race for the play-offs.
Town rode their luck at times, but played their part in an engrossing second-half that saw Josh Gillies sent-off and, like at Altrincham on Saturday, Halifax do pretty much everything but grab a winner.
James Bolton was the unlikely goalscorer, finding the net twice, first to level the score after Carl Finnigan’s opener before Gillies controversially equalised.
Somehow there were no further goals despite both sides going hell for leather in a breathless climax.
Danny Schofield, one of two changes from Saturday, cleared Alex Rodman’s early header off the line as Gateshead forced a series of corners, among which they also had a penalty appeal for handball waved away.
Despite that spell of pressure, neither side started as if the run of three draws in their last three meetings would be ended.
But out of nothing, Danny Hattersley, the other Town change, turned and fired a rocket towards goal that debutant Joel Dixon turned behind with a fine save.
Hattersley replaced Richard Peniket in attack after the forward was injured in the draw at Altrincham.
But there’s a queue outside the door of the treatment room at Gateshead, who went into the game without 11 players, six of whom would have probably started here, including first-choice keeper Adam Bartlett.
Bartlett sustained an injury in the defeat at Dover, prompting the loan signing of 21-year-old Dixon on loan from Sunderland just hours before the trip to Halifax.
Dixon’s senior career to date had peaked at Conference North side Boston, so making his debut in a crucial clash with a fellow play-off hopeful was quite a deep end to be thrown into.
Moments after he rose well to claim a lofted free-kick, Gateshead took the lead when Jamie Chandler’s deft pass played in Finnigan, one player who came back from injury after missing their last game, and he lashed the ball past Matt Glennon.
As recent results have proved, little separates these sides, so it should have been of little surprise when Halifax levelled soon afterwards.
Town produced just the response required when Bolton stooped to head in Marc Roberts’ long throw for his first goal since the 2-0 win over Nuneaton in December.
The disruption Town’s fixture schedule has had this season can be encapsulated with this match, which was due to be played on New Year’s Day, when the attendance would certainly have been higher than just over 1,000.
And the game was, eventually, worth the wait, with no lack of effort but spells in the first-half featuring an absence of tempo and urgency from both teams, aside from interjections from the likes of Matt Pearson and Lois Maynard for Town and the impressive Josh Gillies for Gateshead.
The midfielder would have had a loan spell with The Shaymen but for an untimely injury. On this evidence, he would have been a welcome addition.
Town’s habit of nearly ending a first-half with a self-inflicted wound stretched to a third consecutive match when Glennon miscued a clearance, letting in Rob Ramshaw yards from goal.
Glennon recovered to save Ramshaw’s first effort before Marc Roberts was able to clear his second just in front of goal.
Schofield then cleared Jon Shaw’s header off the line in the dying moments of the opening-half.
It was to Gateshead’s credit that striker Shaw and midfielder Matty Pattison were part of their back-four due to their injury crisis, but the visitors didn’t look like a side missing half their strongest side.
Indeed, Pattison’s effectiveness at left-back meant Adam Smith was switched to the left for the second-half, although Smith had been unusually unproductive before the interval.
Maynard and schofield had both seen long range shots go wide, while Hattersley was withdrawn before the hour mark, so it was up to goal-machine Bolton to do the honours.
A scramble ensued from another Roberts long throw, and Bolton reacted quickest when the ball came free to direct a header beyond Dixon into the far corner.
The game was now delicately poised, with Scott McManus producing an outstanding last-ditch clearance to deny Michael Rankine the chance of an immediate equaliser.
Substitute Scott Boden drove a shot straight at Dixon moments before Gateshead equalised in controversial circumstances.
Rankine hadn’t endeared himself to the home fans with some overly-physical aerial challenges, but this one seemed to top the lot as he competed for a high cross with Glennon.
Town claimed Glennon had been shoved, but the goal was given after Gillies turned in the loose ball.
It may have taken a while, but you couldn’t take your eyes off it now; Dixon saved well from Smith, Boden showed some lovely touches on the ball and referee Wayne Barratt steadily lost his grip on the contest.
Both sides had gripes with the officials by full-time with the game becoming an engrossing spectacle despite their contribution.
It was now like a cup-tie as the introduction of Jack Muldoon saw Town string four men up-field in attack, while Chandler sent a low shot inches wide with Glennon beaten.
If there was to be a winner, it looked like it might be enough to finally separate the two sides.
The game was now becoming increasingly stretched, Jackson the next to go close with a close range header straight at Dixon.
Glennon then produced a magnificent double save as Gateshead broke clear, first denying Alex Rodman and then tipping Finnigan’s shot onto the post.
Gillies’ night ended a few minutes early when he was given a straight red after a poor tackle on Bolton.
It was now all Town pressure, with Boden’s shot cleared just in front of the line and Maynard firing over after a goalmouth scramble.
Halifax: Glennon, Bolton, M Roberts, Hutchison, McManus, Smith, Pearson (Muldoon 78), Maynard, Schofield, Jackson, Hattersley (Boden 58). Subs not used: Senior, Williams, Hatfield.
Scorer: Bolton (29, 59)
Shots on target: 7
Shots off target: 6
Gateshead: Dixon, Baxter, Shaw, Curtis, Chandler, Ramshaw, Gillies, Pattison, Finnigan, Rodman (Wilson 89), Rankine. Subs not used: Baird, Morse, St Luce, Orrell.
Scorer: Finnigan (25), Gillies (70)
Shots on target: 8
Shots off target: 4
Town man of the match: James Bolton