With only one defeat in 11 League One matches, Tranmere look certain to finish their season in a play-off berth at worst but Brian Little found it difficult to conceal his disappointment after conceding a last-gasp equaliser at Saltergate.
The Chesterfield substitute Carlos Logan's goal probably guaranteed that Luton and Hull take the automatic route to the Championship. "I felt that with Luton losing on Friday, a win for us would have given us a chance, so to concede a goal so late is disappointing," Little said. "I still feel that if one of the teams in the chasing pack can string a few wins together it would have an effect but the games are running out now."
None the less, Little is well-placed to plot his sixth tilt at play-off success and the experience gained with Leicester and Hull should make him a formidable adversary.
"I can understand his disappointment that Hull and Luton have not slipped up," said the Chesterfield manager, Roy McFarland. "When we lost at Tranmere early in the season I told him he would be going up automatically. But they are certainties for the play-offs and will be hard to beat."
The first half had been dominated by the home side, whose performance made nonsense of their record at Saltergate this season. Before Huddersfield came to grief here two weeks ago, McFarland's side had not celebrated a victory on their own turf since November.
Tranmere took 31 minutes to muster a first shot on target - the goalkeeper Carl Muggleton palming Paul Hall's shot around the post - so when the opening goal came in first-half stoppage time, Steve Blatherwick heading home Shane Nicholson's free-kick, the reward was well-deserved.
A minute into the second half, the lead would have been doubled but for a superb save by John Achterberg, who saw Derek Niven's volley late but was agile enough to turn it over the bar. But Tranmere, with a change of system and a double substitution, responded powerfully.
Chesterfield were determined to hold out, Muggleton beating out a Ryan Taylor shot, Blatherwick blocking Hall's goal-bound follow-up. Then Muggleton deflected a Taylor free-kick over the bar. But Tranmere did not relent and Michael Jackson's header from a Taylor free-kick broke the home side's resistance.
Five minutes from time, they cracked again as the substitute Eugene Dadi took a return pass from Hall and swept a shot beyond Muggleton's outstretched reach, seemingly clinching three points.
But the last word went to McFarland, who sent on the sixth substitute of the game, 19-year-old Logan, with two minutes left. On loan from Manchester City, his first meaningful touch was the shot, critically deflected by Taylor, that restricted Little's side to a point.Reuse content