JACK Willars struck from the spot just after the break to earn a point for title-chasing Seal against the Red Lion at Netherseal.
Dan O’Toole had given the visitors a half-time lead but they were pegged back in this Burton & District Sunday League Division Two clash.
With both teams badly in need of all three points for very different reasons, it was always going to be a hard-fought encounter and so it proved.
In bright sunshine, the Seal blitzed the visitors from the kick-off, with Dave Harper sending Adam Edmonds clear but the striker’s shot was deflected for a corner.
Then a header by Dan Laud from another Harper corner rebounded to Edmonds, but visitors’ keeper Martin Howitt made a smart save.
Next, a Harper free kick caused mayhem in the box before it was scrambled clear.
The Seal maintained the siege of the visitors’ goal with a vicious low cross from Edmonds skidding unchased across the six-yard box.
Scott Duggins then broke forward from midfield, only to be brought down on the edge of the box.
Harper’s free kick was heading for the top corner when Howitt flew across his goal to push the ball round the post.
On 26 minutes, Harper unselfishly set up Ryan Worker, who went one-on-one with Howitt, but the keeper saved with his legs with Edmonds smashing the loose ball wide.
It was fully half an hour before the visitors threatened.
A long throw-in from Jamie Mullarkey was not properly cleared and Stuart O’Toole pounced, chesting the ball into the box before blazing over from eight yards.
Two minutes later the visitors went in front.
A free kick taken by Dan O’Toole wide on the left completely deceived Gareth Williams and dropped over him into the top corner.
The visitors nearly doubled their advantage when Stuart Fox charged down a Williams clearance but the ball flew wide.
Thoroughly rattled now, the Seal had another narrow escape when moments later, an under-hit back pass from Jonny Bowler let in Stuart O’Toole.
Williams saw the danger and raced out to claim the ball. Strong appeals by the visitors that he had handled the ball outside his area were waved away by referee Herb Croken.
At the other end, two close-range efforts by Willars were blocked by the resolute visiting defence.
As the half ended, a pin-point ball from midfielder Dan O’Toole dropped to the unmarked Ben Stilwell, but the midfielder shinned a gilt-edged chance wide.
Two minutes after the restart, the hosts levelled.
A rash, totally unnecessary and awful challenge from Adam Revitt scythed down Edmonds in the box and Williams buried the spot kick.
A couple of minutes later, the Seal had a lucky escape when a mix-up in their defence almost gifted the visitors with a goal.
A strong Nicklin back pass flew past the advancing Williams but fortunately the ball went the right side of the post and out for a corner. On 59 minutes, the visitors went close again when James Fitzpatrick hit Dan O’Toole and Williams, at full stretch, pushed the ball round the post.
Back came the Seal, with Harper pulling the ball back to Duggins, who swept a decent chance wide. Then a Harper free kick reached Nicklin but he too fired wide from eight yards.
It was end-to-end now, with a lob from Dan O’Toole dropping just over and a fine through ball from Andy Walker sent Dan O’Toole clear but his first touch was too heavy and the ball ran through to a grateful Williams.
For the seal, Duggins sent a curling effort inches wide before firing a screamer inches over.
But the visitors, who made a nonsense of their lovely league position, nearly snatched victory when Williams kept out a fierce shot from Dan O’Toole.
The Seal threw everybody forward in a desperate search for the winner but Willars, after trading passes with Duggins, dragged his shot wide.
GOALS: Willars 47 pen (Seal); Dan O’Toole 32 (Red Lion).
SEAL INN: Williams, Laud, Nicklin, Bowler, Preston, Duggins, Worker, Edmonds, Willars, Pearce (Tilson 45), Harper. Subs not used: Barker, Burton, Dineley.
RED LION REPTON: Howitt, Mullarkey, S O’Toole (Grifths 67), Fox, Noble, Revitt, Fox (Walker 60), Stilwell (Murphy 60), Fitzpatrick, Smith, D O’Toole. Sub not used: Gordon.
STAR MAN: Scott Duggins (Seal Inn) - midfielder worked hard and used the ball well.
REFEREE: H Croken (Winshill).