Had the Republic of Ireland man, who finished on his knees, been beaten in such a fashion it would have been a travesty, given his display throughout. Kelly's feelings about the Norwegian putting all First Division three points at risk were amply demonstrated when he shoved him angrily after the final whistle.
"I admit I pushed him," Kelly said. "But it was all in the heat of the moment and we made it up in the dressing-room. It's all about passion in situations like this and he could have cost us the game."
Four minutes earlier, Norwich's second-half substitute Robert Fleck had a fleeting opportunity to score a winning goal after being freed by Mike Milligan's wall-pass, but he shot wildly.
It was a curious end to a game which, until the 70th minute, had seemed likely to mark the end of Norwich's unbeaten home league record. A sweetly judged free-kick from the edge of the box by Neil Adams retrieved a point for Norwich after United's Belarus international, Petr Kachuro, had headed his side into a 24th-minute lead.
Until that moment, United's sharp, direct football seemed likely to prevail. While Nilsen nearly put his foot in it at the end, it was his initiative which brought the opening goal as he tricked Danny Mills to reach the byline and produce a near-post cross which Kachuro glanced in.
The Norwich manager, Mike Walker, had hoped to reduce Bolton's four-point lead at the top of the division more dramatically, but he regarded the result as a point saved rather than two points lost.
United, having started the season inconsistently, look capable of mobilising a strong push for promotion through the winter months.
"It took something special for Alan Kelly to be beaten tonight. And it was a special free-kick," said United's manager, Howard Kendall, who refused to comment on being linked with the current vacancy at Blackburn Rovers. They could certainly do with some of the passion he has engendered in his current team.
Norwich City (4-4-2): Gunn; Futch, Newman, Polston, Mills; Adams, Johnson (Crook, 80), Milligan, Eadie; Scott (Fleck, 63), O'Neill. Substitute not used: Akinbiyi.
Sheffield United (4-4-2): Kelly; Short, Holdsworth, Vonk, Nilsen; Ward, Hutchison, Patterson, Whitehouse; Taylor (White, 80), Kachuro. Substitutes not used: Walker, Tracey (gk).
Referee: A Leake (Darwen).Reuse content