Neil Warnock's affections for his former club were tested as Plymouth's improved form under Tony Pulis posed another question of Sheffield United's Premiership credentials.
The Blades' manager believed he had an agreement with Argyle, who he steered to promotion via the Third Division play-offs a decade ago, that the ex-United midfielder Lilian Nalis would not play. Nalis, released by United last month in order to move to the West Country, won the man of the match award.
The loss of five points in six days has left the Blades 12 points adrift of Reading and looking over their shoulders at a pack led by Watford, who beat Warnock's men 4-1 a week ago.
"I was disappointed Nalis played, but I suppose that's a lesson for me to learn," said Warnock, who retains a home in Cornwall, and the services of the Argyle groundsman to help maintain an estate including a trout lake. "I went out of my way, financially, to help Lilian Nalis move to Plymouth. I love [Argyle] but today I'm not very happy with it."
Pulis was unaware of any agreement. "Neil dealt with the chairman," he said. "What was said between those two remains between those two. I'm more than delighted to have Lilian in my side. If Neil didn't want Lilian to play against him, he shouldn't have sold him."
Two other Frenchman, the goalkeeper Romain Larrieu and centre-back Mathias Kouo-Doumbé, combining to thwart Ade Akinbiyi midway through the second half. The home side had to wait until the final minute before forcing Paddy Kenny into a meaningful save, after Tony Capaldi had slipped in David Norris .
The point pushed Argyle nearer the play-offs than the drop zone for the first time since Pulis was appointed in September. "When you look at their squad, we've done exceptionally well to hold them," he said. "We're Mini Minors [sic] compared to their Ferraris."
Plymouth Argyle (4-4-2): Larrieu; Connolly, Kouo-Doumbé, Ward, Barness; Norris, Wotton, Nalis, Capaldi; Evans (Péricard, 58), Chadwick. Substitutes not used: Buzsaky, Aljofree, Hodges, McCormick (gk).
Sheffield United (4-4-2): Kenny; Bromby, Short, Morgan, Armstrong; Ifill, Jagielka, Flitcroft (Montgomery, 77), Quinn (Gillespie, 71); Kabba (Shipperley, 76), Akinbiyi. Substitutes not used: Barnes (gk), Kozluk.
Referee: C Penton (Sussex).
Booked: Plymouth Nallis, Kouo-Doumbe.
Man of the match: Nalis
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