Hednesford Town were left deflated after a late Wayne Daniel header rescued a point for Rushall Olympic just 90 seconds after Kyle Patterson had pounced on a comedy error by Chris Gemmell to seemingly gift The Pitmen all three points.
In a match played on a heavy pitch after the home side had put in a huge effort to clear the playing surface of snow in the lead up to the game, the Hednesford travelling support went through a spectrum of emotions that only football can give.
The Pics had taken the lead with their first shot on target just before half time when Dave Walker turned on the edge of the area and Dan Crane could only helplessly watch as the ball deflected off Sam Barnes and rolled into the corner of the net.
The Pitmen, playing with three centre-halves to negate the electric pace of Ahmed Obeng, had contained the home side in the first half but struggled to trouble Gemmell themselves with Daniel imperious at the back as both teams toiled in the difficult conditions.
The second half was a much more open affair as Hednesford showed a real desire to grab an equaliser and, but for a deflection which diverted the ball wide of the post when Elliott Durrell picked up a loose ball on 50 minutes, they could have been on level terms.
Obeng then countered swiftly and ghosted past three tackles before squaring the ball to Ramone Stephens whose shot was well saved by Crane and then, after Hednesford substitute Aaron Rey poked wide from a tight angle, Walker should really have doubled the home side’s advantage on 65 minutes when he battled past Francino Francis, opened up his body but side-footed over the crossbar.
Jamey Osborne was controversially booked for diving as the clock ticked down, but it needed an inspired substitution from Rob Smith to turn the match as Sean O’Connor, returning from a loan spell at Stafford Rangers, headed powerfully at Gemmell from a corner and reacted quickest to bundle in the rebound off the crossbar to send the travelling Hednesford support wild behind the goal on 75 minutes.
The Pitmen could sense the chance of victory and after Kyle Haynes saw his shot cleared off the line for the home side, a pass through by Osborne rolled inconspicuously towards Gemmell only for the goalkeeper to take a wild air shot and offer Patterson the opportunity to roll the ball into an open net with three minutes to go.
The goal was met by pandemonium from the hordes of Pitmen fans, but their celebrations were short lived as within 60 seconds Crane pulled off an astonishing point blank save from Obeng before Daniel rose highest and powered a header from the resulting corner into the net.
Almost at the same time as Rushall’s equaliser, news filtered through that North Ferriby had scored a late winner at Blyth Spartans and the cruelness of football saw a four point swing at the summit of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier Division as The Pitmen went from four points behind to eight in the space of just two rollercoaster minutes.
Rob Smith and his team now need The Villagers to lose once or draw twice in the final six games and, when the dust settles on another exciting season, Hednesford may pinpoint April Fools Day as the moment their hopes of winning the title took a terminal hit.
Despite the gap in points, The Pitmen will be keen to make amends for the late equaliser when they welcome lowly Kendal Town to Keys Park on Thursday night which, if they repeat the result against the Lake District outfit from last Tuesday, would leave them five points off the top with a game in hand.
Gemmell, Haynes, Beckett, Tolley, Daniel (c) (89), Gaines, Downes, Craddock, Walker (42), Obeng (Islam 79), Stevens (Landell 74),
Subs Not Used
Crane, Disney, Campion (c), Bailey, Francis, Barnes (Patterson 70 (87)), Osborne, Durrell, Harvey (Rey 19), Lennon (O’Connor 76 (77)), Taylor,
Subs Not Used
Bookings – Craddock, Osborne,
Star Man – Wayne Daniel
Entertainment Rating – 5 Stars
Attendance – 602