Two second half injuries cost Harrogate Town dear as AFC Fylde twice came from behind to escape the CNG Stadium with a point on Tuesday night.
On his return to the starting line-up, Jordan Thewlis put Town ahead and his side should have been out of sight in a dominant first half display.
But a defensive mix-up gifted visiting striker Danny Rowe a soft equaliser, one minute after Town’s influential captain Danny Ellis had been replaced through injury.
Brendon Daniels regained the lead with a sublime free-kick but Town were unable to hold on following Louie Swain’s late injury as Rowe swept home an audacious shot-cum-cross to salvage a point.
The match was always set to be a pointer to both team’s title credentials in National League North, with one place in the top five separating the play-off contenders.
A victory would have seen Town leapfrog Fylde into fourth spot, but despite an exhibition of their attacking prowess over the 90 minutes, Simon Weaver’s men were unable to kill off the game.
Weaver was forced into a single change from the side that thumped Corby Town 3-0 on Saturday, with striker Jerry Yates unavailable through complications with his loan extension from Rotherham United.
Yates had scored twice in the positive result at Corby but his presence up front was not missed as Thewlis and Dominic Knowles put in a tireless display.
Town made a lively start in front of 416 supporters at the CNG and Lloyd Kerry smashed a volley wide early before Daniels headed over from Lewis Turner’s cross.
Turner’s distribution from his right-back position has been a key part of Town’s success this season, and another foray forward brought the opening goal. Receiving the ball from winger Joe Colbeck, the former Leeds United youngster reached the byline and lifted a teasing ball for Thewlis to nod home.
Fylde were finding no answers to Town’s blistering start, and waves of home attacks followed before half-time – only lacking the final finishing touch. Chances for Swain and Colbeck came and went, with strong saves from visiting stopper Ben Hinchcliffe, while Daniels caused the Coasters plenty of problems on the left. His trickery brought a series of smart saves out of the visiting keeper.
Hinchcliffe continued to play a pivotal part in denying Town and an exquisite save prevented Turner, after the defender clipped goalwards on the edge of the box.
Fylde’s first opportunity arrived on 25 minutes when Rowe kicked fresh air from 10 yards after Dion Charles’ stinging strike was parried by goalkeeper Peter Crook.
There were brief signs of the lethal streak which saw Rowe score more than 30 times last season, as he forced Crook into another strong save on the half-hour m.
Town responded to dominate the latter part of the first half and thought they had doubled the lead when Dominic Knowles headed home Louie Swain’s left-footed cross, only to have their celebrations cut short by the linesman’s flag.
The decision might not have mattered as Daniels drew another low save out of Hinchcliffe, while Thewlis was unable to wrap his foot around another chance before the break.
Fylde retuned in the second half a rejuvenated outfit, as Town struggled to match the high tempo performance of the opening 45 minutes.
However, Kerry impressed in the centre of midfield as he continually regained possession alongside the experienced Paul Thirlwell.
Ellis had been a man mountain at the back throughout the first half, and he almost added to the scoresheet when heading Daniels’ corner narrowly over.
However, he came into trouble on his run back to defence and was replaced by Matt Bloomer.
Inside a minute, Fylde were gifted their equaliser. A long ball dissected Bloomer and fellow centre-half Luke Shiels, before Crook misjudged it racing out of his box, leaving Rowe with an open goal.
However, the home side’s doom was short-lived as Daniels returned the lead two minutes later with a vicious free-kick from 25 yards.
The winger had been fouled on the left, and picked himself up to hammer home in spectacular fashion, leaving Hinchcliffe with no chance.
Knowles should have put the three points to bed on 72 minutes after another expert cross from Turner’s right boot gave him a free header from point-blank range, but he could only find the safe hands of Hinchcliffe.
Weaver shuffled his pack with Jack Emmett and Cecil Nyoni replacing the exhausted Thewlis and Daniels. But the decision to use all three substitutes meant Town had to play the final 15 minutes with just 10 men, as Swain went down injured.
And Town were made to rue their missed opportunities as Fylde pulled themselves level with a freak goal to silence the home support.
Neat interplay between Rowe and Danny Lloyd resulted in the former curling home from the left wing.
However it was uncertain as to what degree the prolific striker meant to find the inside of the post.
Town huffed and puffed to find a late winner with a man less, but they were unable to get back on top.