By then, Dion Dublin's 12th Premiership goal of the season for Coventry City had cancelled out Uwe Rosler's fourth. Ultimately, however, it was the Midlands side who were closest to giving way and they owed much to their full-back Ally Pickering and veteran keeper Steve Ogrizovic for escaping with a point.
During the home side's frantic final assault, Pickering cleared off the line from Niall Quinn and Ogrizovic pushed a header from the Irishman over the bar. It was not to be Quinn's day. Twice in the first half he had only Ogrizovic to beat, but each time he sent the ball looping harmlessly into the stand.
Ron Atkinson, the Coventry manager, would not accept that his side had been lucky, but the facts did not support him. Ogrizovic, despite playing with a pulled hamstring, also managed to keep out a Kit Symons header and an Ian Brightwell shot, as well as grasping a last-minute cross from Nicky Summerbee that might easily have created the winning goal.
Alan Ball, determined to put a positive face on his side's continuing struggle, offered an assurance that "everything will be fine" come the end of the season, but the "goals for" column next to the Maine Road club's name can only be a source of anxiety. The sudden flurry of scoring against Leicester in the FA Cup last week looks suspiciously like a freak result.
"I'm pleased because we bossed the game from the first whistle to the last," Ball said. "We were the better side and that is a measure of our progress."
But not until the closing stages was that true. Until Rosler's goal, a glancing header from Quinn's back-to-goal flick, the two teams looked as poor as each other. Dublin's equaliser, created by Marcus Hall's centre, was not undeserved.
These rivals renew acquaintance in the Cup next weekend, when Ball will have the newly acquired talents of Nigel Clough to accommodate, but Atkinson will have David Rennie and Paul Williams back from injury to reinforce his defence. Yesterday's rehearsal suggested that the performance would benefit from a new script.Reuse content