A sensational strike from Jonny Margetts illuminated what was an otherwise awful and scrappy local derby as Matlock Town drew 1-1 with Mickleover Sports in the Evo-Stik NPL.
It was a goal worthy of winning any game at any level and with it coming with 20 minutes remaining, it should have been sufficient to give Matlock all three points.
But within 90 seconds Mason Warren, who had a brief spell with Matlock on loan from Rotherham United two years ago, snatched an equaliser before, with four minutes remaining, Sports were reduced to ten men.
Captain Jake Scott received his marching orders for twice elbowing Matlock debutant Nathan Morley off the ball.
Margetts partnered Craig Westcarr in the Gladiators attack and manager Dave Frecklington also gave a start to loanee Nyle Blake, from Mansfield, on the right.
Chris Salt replaced Lee Beevers, only to be helped off in tears with a serious knee injury that will probably see him miss the rest of the season.
With Mickleover desperate for all the points to improve on their third bottom placing and aid their hopes of avoiding the drop, a more expansive game might have been expected.
But it took 36 minutes for either side to register a meaningful strike at goal when Nathan Jarman shot from 25 yards with Town goalkeeper Ross Durrant comfortably holding the strike.
Brad Beatson’s header from a 40th minute free kick was straight at Sports goalkeeper Lewis King.
A melee in the Sports penalty box then brought bookings for Westcarr and Sports’ Ricky Ravenhill to add to the unnecessary yellow card shown to Michael Williams eight minutes earlier.
Things improved in the second half with the introduction of Morley, who did his chances of starting next weekend’s game at Hednesford no harm whatsoever. He constantly ran at Scott and the Sports defence, weaving in from the left, and Matlock suddenly looked a threat.
Beatson was booked after Michael Hollingsworth drove too high from distance, Mickleover replying with a brief flurry of pressure that ended with Shaquille McDonald’s shot being deflected wide.
There had still not been any clear-cut chances until that moment of Margetts magic. Durrant’s free kick was nodded on by Westcarr to Margetts who, 25 yards out, swivveled an volleyed in one movement, the ball looping over King for what is a candidate for goal of the season and out of keeping with the rest of the game.
Matlock’s joy was shortlived as James Baxendale lifted a free kick into the area.
Mills knocked the ball into the path of the advancing Warren, who fired low past Durrant.
The keeper might feel he could have stopped the shot.
Matlock then had the bulk of the play and looked to be the only side wanting to win it.
Westcarr broke on the left to thread an inviting low centre across the danger area, which the stretching Margetts knocked wide.
A Westcarr free kick was disappointingly too high before another Westcarr set-piece ricocheted about in the Sports penalty box and was unconvincingly cleared.
Then came the sending off of Scott, which was nearly punished even further as King tipped Westcarr’s free kick over the bar.
Michael Williams twice drove too high as Mickleover held on for a point, with their fans stupidly letting off a flare behind Durrant’s goal.
The one point looks to be of limited use for Mickleover, especially with second bottom Workington winning at Whitby.
Matlock remain in relative safety but would have been disappointed with their performance in a game that had a distinct end of season feel to it.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Ross Durrant 2 Adam Yates 3 Brad Beatson 4 Michael Hollingsworth 5 Dwayne Wiley 6 Chris Salt (12 Lee Beevers 24) 7 Nyle Blake 8 Michael Williams 9 Craig Westcarr 10 Jonny Margetts 11 Jordan Chapell (16 Nathan Morley 55).
Other subs: 14 Harry Wood 15 Jordan Wells 17 Terry Fleming.
MICKLEOVER SPORTS: 1 Lewis King 2 Jake Scott 3 Ben Turner 4 Ricky Ravenhill 5 Pablo Mills 6 Durrell Berry 7 Mason Warren 8 James Baxendale 9 Jack Storer (12 Levi Amantchi 78) 10 Nathan Jarman (14 Karel Tvaroh 87) 11 Shaquille McDonald (16 Jimmy Phillips 90).
Other subs: 15 Will Norcross 17 Adam Prusa.
REFEREE: Lee Freeman (Rotherham).
BEST GLADIATOR: Dwayne Wiley.