Paul Hurst’s Grimsby Town side let a two-goal lead slip at Notts County in the final 13 minutes of a pulsating match and had the woodwork to thank for even a point at Meadow Lane.
Goals from Shaun Pearson and Omar Bogle put the Mariners, backed by over 2,300 vociferous travelling supporters, in charge at County but a triple sub by home boss John Sheridan spurred his side into action.
They pulled one back on 77 minutes when Jonathan Forte pounced after pinball in the Mariners’ area and, less than 60 seconds later, they had a golden chance to level when Pearson was adjudged to have fouled Vadaine Oliver in the area.
Michael O’Connor stepped up to take to the spot kick but struck the outside of the post to spare the shell-shocked Mariners. But that breather only lasted 12 minutes and, in the last seconds of normal time, Oliver nodded down for another sub, Aaron Collins to rifle home from 15 yards.
And it was then goalkeeper James McKeown then denied County a winner in the first of seven additional minutes at the end of the game. The former Boston stopper was at his best to tip Oliver’s looping header over the bar after Forte had caused problems at the back.
But, for much of the opening hour, it was the visitors in charge of the game. Hurst handed debuts to new loan signings, Shaun Tuton from Barnsley and Brandon Comley from QPR and it was the former who had the best chance of the opening quarter of the game.
The striker raced away from the County defence on 18 minutes and just had Adam Collin in the home goal to beat but he dragged his effort wide of the far post from 16 yards.
McKeown then made two excellent parries, firstly from Richard Duffy and then from Stanley Aborah as County looked to get a foothold into the game.
But it was the visitors who took a deserved lead on 32 minutes when Pearson rose highest to nod home a right-wing corner.
And the Mariners then pressed for a second, Dominic Vose setting Ashley Chambers free, only for the former York man to fire wide of the near post.
The Magpies rallied at the start of the second half with Adam Campbell and former Mariner Alex Rodman seeing efforts blocked in the first exchanges.
But it was the visitors who were gift-wrapped a second on 56 minutes when a poor back-pass from Mattt Tootle let Bogle in and he prodded home from inside the area.
It was at this point that Sheridan played all three cards in his pack with Oliver, Collins and Thierry Audel coming on for Campbell, Jonthan Stead and Aborah.
And they made an immediate impact on the game with Oliver flashing a header just over from Forte’s cross and then the pair combining in reverse to similar effect with 20 minutes remaining.
The game, already played in front of a cracking atmosphere, turned up a notch further on 76 minutes with a crazy 120-second spell.
Tuton was forced off for the Mariners with veteran Scott Vernon replacing him but the visitors had not had chance to regroup when Forte pulled one back from close range.
There was pinball in the Mariners’ area after a Comley clearance was charged down. Rodman’s cross fell for Oliver, who saw a shot cleared off the line by Pearson but Forte was on hand to mop up the leftovers.
Less than a minute later the hosts were awarded a penalty. A long cross into the area found Oliver and he was pushed in the back by Danny Andrew, prompting referee Nigel Miller to point to the spot.
O’Connor stepped up to take the kick and fired low and hard to the left but he only found the outside of the post, as the travelling contingent breathed a sigh of relief.
But that respite only lasted until one minute from time. Another long cross into the box found Oliver and he cleverly chested down for Collins to hammer home from just inside the penalty box.
As the game ticked into an astonishing seven minutes of injury time, McKeown was called upon to prevent Oliver from snatching a winner. The striker won the first flick on and then moved quickly to latch onto Forte’s lob, trying to loop a header over the Mariners’ stopper, who arched back and tipped it over the crossbar.
The last chance of the game came the visitors’ way and it was deep in stoppage time. A corner was nodded down by Josh Gowling for Vernon, who saw a shot on the turn blocked. It fell back for the Mariners’ defender, who similarly saw an effort cleared.
Magpies: Collin; Tootle, Duffy, Laing, Dickinson; Rodman, O’Connor, Aborah (Audel), Forte; Stead (Oliver), Campbell (Collins). Subs not used: Loach, Smith, Hollis, Milsom
Mariners: McKeown; Davies, Gowling, Pearson, Andrew; Chambers (Berrett), Comley, Summerfield, Vose (Disley); Bogle, Tuton (Vernon). Subs not used: Warrington, Mills, Bolarinwa, Boyce