The 125th Sheffield derby was billed as the most important league game between Wednesday and United in three decades. After a draw which left the home club in the Championship relegation zone, Hillsborough's last stand this season, against Crystal Palace, promises to be even more momentous.
Wednesday, having led through Darren Potter's volley before Lee Williamson's free-kick gave United a deserved point, appear likely to have to beat Palace – who are a point ahead with each side having two matches remaining – to avoid slipping back into the third tier.
Potter's goal came not only against the run of play but at a time when United were down to 10 men as former Wednesday striker Richard Cresswell had stitches in a head wound following a touchline collision with home winger Jermaine Johnson. The United manager, Kevin Blackwell, accused Johnson of a "poor challenge", and when asked whether Cresswell thought an elbow had caused the injury he replied: "He doesn't think. He knows."
Blackwell felt United had shaded a typically robust contest fought out on a "rubbish" pitch. Pressed on whether he accepted a draw was a fair result, he said: "No, I don't. I think we should have won it, but I would say that, wouldn't I? Their goal was very harsh in that it came when Cresswell was off. I gave the medical men some stick because it took so long to sort him out, but the cut was so jagged that they couldn't get the stitches into it.
"People might consider our goal was a bit fortuitous, but it was a set-play that we work on and if people don't get touches, the ball goes in. We had three or four really good chances after that, but we knew that with it being Wednesday there would be a long throw or set-piece that could cause us a problem, and once or twice the ball bounced around our box dangerously."
Wednesday's manager, Alan Irvine, was unaware of any suggestion that Johnson had deliberately swung an arm at Cresswell. "I spoke to Cressie and asked him what happened. He said he'd got caught with an elbow. It was the first I'd heard of it. Kevin [Blackwell] didn't seem to make anything of it at the time."
Irvine said it was "a game we could have won". He added: "We got a fantastic goal, but in the second half we gave away needless free-kicks and they scored from one. It's still in our hands. If we can match or better Palace's results, it goes to the last game."
United almost took a seventh-minute lead when Darius Henderson's header struck Wednesday captain Darren Purse and came out of a post. Potter's goal, a 12-yard volley on the run from Luke Varney's cross, set Wednesdayites singing about the 4-0 "Boxing Day Massacre" of 1979, only for Williamson to ensure parity with a free-kick that drifted in off the far post.
Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Grant; Nolan, Purse, Beevers, Spurr; Johnson, Potter, O'Connor, Varney; Clarke (Soares, 78), Tudgay. Substitutes not used: O'Donnell (gk), Hinds, Jeffers, Esajas, Simek, Gray.
Sheffield United (4-4-2): Simonsen; Connolly, Morgan, Nosworthy, Taylor (Bartley, 61); Williamson (Little, 79), Montgomery, Harper (Camara, 51), Quinn; Cresswell, Henderson. Substitutes not used: Bennett (gk), Evans, Yeates, Seip, Bartley.
Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).
Booked: Sheffield Wednesday O'Connor, Nolan; Sheffield United Taylor, Quinn.
Man of the match: Quinn.
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