Ten-man FC Halifax Town came from 3-1 down to salvage a 3-3 draw against 10-man Eastleigh in a dramatic game at The Shay.
A disastrous five minute spell saw Sam Matthews find the net straight from a corner and Chris Zebroski head in from another corner.
Scott McManus’ penalty, yes a penalty, got Halifax back into a contest they’d easily had the better of.
Sam Johnson was sent-off just before the hour-mark, and from then on there looked no way back, especially when Simon Heslop added a third.
But McManus’ excellent cross was converted by Tom Denton before Eastleigh keeper Ross Flitney was also dismissed for a second booking.
There was one last twist when substitute Dan Batty drove in after a good run and pass by Josh Macdonald.
The game featured two sides mired in poor form and two managers coming under increasing pressure.
The result extends Town’s winless run to 11 games, but the performance, at least for the most part, was arguably their best in weeks and a battling Town didn’t play like a team that had lost confidence in their manager, even if a section of the supporters have.
The inclusion of Jake Hibbs and Adam Morgan from the start illustrated the desperate lack of options available to the Town boss in his hour of need.
But both nearly scored in the first two minutes, with Morgan’s low shot across goal and Hibbs’ first-time shot from the resulting corner bringing good saves from Ross Flitney; Town had obviously learned something about starting well at Hartlepool.
A lovely pass out wide by Hibbs then led to Scott McManus testing Flitney, with Eastleigh looking rattled.
While the visitors were tentative and nervy, Halifax were purposeful and upbeat.
The already impressive Hibbs’ superb free-kick from 20 yards was brilliantly pushed against the woodwork after 10 minutes by Flitney, who then saved Tom Denton’s header from the following corner.
All that was missing was a Town goal, but the hosts were made to regret not turning their early pressure into a lead in bizarre fashion when Sam Matthews’ in-swinging corner was carried over the line by Johnson. When things aren’t going for you and all that.
Town protested furiously that their keeper was pushed, but to no avail. And Halifax were also aggrieved when Flitney was only booked for clattering into McManus, who had go in behind the Eastleigh defence.
It went from bad to worse when substitute Zebroski turned in a flicked-on corner to complete a remarkable five minute spell wholly at odds with the 15 minutes that had preceded it.
Chants of “Heath out” emanated from the South Stand, but the score was in no way a reflection of the game.
Town were not the same side after falling behind though, with Eastleigh’s goals robbing the hosts of their early fluency and tempo.
But Town were handed a lifeline when Danny Clarke was fouled in the box, and finally, the hosts scored from the spot through McManus. Maybe Heath’s luck was starting to turn.
Halifax surely needed to score next, but the visitors almost regained their two-goal cushion when Johnson brilliantly kept out Matthews’ curling shot before Paul McCallum’s rebound was blocked on the line by Josh Clackstone.
Matthews continued to be Johnson’s nemesis when the Town keeper unnecessarily raced off his line and brought the Eastleigh man down out wide, and was given a second booking; his first having come for kicking the ball away after conceding Matthews’ goal.
The disgruntled Town fans then reacted with ire at heath’s decision to bring Tom Nicholson on for Morgan.
The chants of “Heath out” got louder when Heslop finished well from Zebroski’s low cross from the left.
The game took another twist when Denton turned in McManus’ cross before Flitney was shown a second yellow card for refusing to hand the ball back.
That set-up a grandstand finish, with Eastleigh backs to the wall. Heath in?
Centre-back Andrew Boyce had been forced to go in goal with Eastleigh having no keeper on the bench,but he saved well from substitute Batty’s close-range shot.
But Batty found the net in the 90th minute to dramatically rescue a point, reward Town for their spirited comeback and possibly keep his manager in the job.
Halifax: Johnson, Clackstone (Waring 83), Brown, Hotte (Batty 78), Wilde, Macdonald, Clarke, Hibbs, McManus, Denton, Morgan (Nicholson 59). Subs not used: Moyo, Middleton.
Scorers: McManus (39), Denton (73), Batty (90)
Shots on target:13
Shots off target: 5
Eastleigh: Flitney, Hoyte, Boyce, Howe, Miley, Heslop, Shaw, Yeates, Matthews (Obileye 75), Williamson (Zebroski 19), McCallum (McCallister 68).
Subs not used: Constable, Hudson-Odoi.
Scorers: Matthews (16), Zebroski (21), Heslop (64)
Shots on target:7
Shots off target: 4
Referee: Karl Evans
Town man of the match: Jake Hibbs