Paolo di Canio secured a well-deserved point for injury-depleted Charlton when he "won" and then converted a late, and disputed, penalty to extend the London side's unbeaten run to seven games, keep them fourth in the Premiership and leave the Leicester manager, Micky Adams, fuming.
A third successive victory for his newly promoted team had been in prospect until the 84th minute when the stylish Italian ran past Steve Howey, who raised an arm and knocked him off balance, leaving the referee, Graham Barber, with only one option. After a lengthy and emotional protest, Di Canio brushed himself down and then glided a perfect spot-kick low to Ian Walker's right to equalise Leicester's earlier opening goal, headed in by Les Ferdinand after 39 minutes.
"That was as controversial a decision as you can get," said Adams afterwards, admitting that he had raged at the referee and, when Di Canio was withdrawn in the 88th minute, applauded him sarcastically as he left the field. "Yes, I was applauding him ... He is a fantastic player," he said, mustering all the credibility of a Jeffrey Archer defence statement.
Di Canio was astonished at Adams' criticisms. "It should have been two penalties," he said, referring to an earlier decision when he was body-checked. "But the second one was definitely a penalty. He put his arm across me. If that wasn't a penalty, please tell me what is!"
Charlton's calm and intelligent manager, Alan Curbishley, did his rising stock no harm by ignoring the row. Sitting in the stands, he said he did not have a close-up view. "I was upstairs and I thought it was a penalty... And, remember, the referee had only one go at it."
Earlier, such a wild finale had seemed improbable. After all the celebrations in Leicester, following Martin Johnson's lifting of the Rugby World Cup in Sydney, the atmosphere was as flat as the weather, a sense of anti-climax deepening the gloom. Leicester toiled with little effect against a Charlton side that included several players out of position in an unfamiliar team. The early loss of the makeshift right-back Mark Fish only added to their problems, but Leicester did not possess the sharpness in attack to take advantage.
Ferdinand, capitalising on a poor back by Fish, almost slid in, but the advancing Dean Kiely diverted the ball clear. Then Jason Euell, playing in midfield, stole forward and forced two saves from Walker before Ferdinand, jumping with perfect timing to meet a diagonal cross from Ben Thatcher, put Leicester ahead.
In the second half, Muzzy Izzet came alive, Marcus Bent hit a post with a volley on the turn and Graham Stuart did the same with a drive at the other end as Charlton, the better side, sought the equality that came when Di Canio, turning sweetly in the penalty area, invited Howey's ill-judged howler. The defender, showing little presence of mind, failed to resist the bait and Charlton kept their grip on a potential place in the Champions' League.Reuse content