Avelino Vieira scored a long-awaited goal for Corby Town and then saw red on what proved to be an eventful old night at Steel Park.
Vieira’s early penalty and Ryan Semple’s goal saw the Steelmen take a deserved 2-0 lead in the first half and they looked set for a crucial victory as they bid for safety in the Blue Square Bet North.
But the red mist descended on Vieira as his high challenge on Bishop’s Stortford’s Adam Bailey-Dennis just past the hour earned him a deserved red card. It happened shortly after the officials had failed to see Bailey-Dennis’s similar challenge on the striker.
The visitors took full advantage to draw level with two goals in the space of 60 seconds but the Steelmen did steady the ship to claim a point and a 2-2 draw that looked like escaping them after the visitors’ quickfire double.
Steelmen boss Chris Plummer was forced into a number of changes with Paul Malone falling ill before kick-off while Jordan Ivey-Ward and Greg Kaziboni were also missing.
It meant a recall for top scorer and new dad Josh Moreman, Vieira and Lewis Webb while, as expected, Gareth Jelleyman made his debut having signed earlier in the week.
Malone’s absence meant skipper Jason Crowe partnered Stefan Galinski at the heart of the Corby defence while Sam Ives continued at right-back.
And the hosts could not have asked for a better start as they took the lead inside five minutes.
Tom McGowan sent a ball through for Vieira to chase and went tumbling in the area after a clash with Curtis Ujah and referee Michael Blackledge pointed to the spot.
It looked a bit soft but Vieira dusted himself down before confidently sending Carl Pentney the wrong way from 12 yards for that long-awaited strike.
It was pretty even after that but Corby continued to look dangerous on the counter-attack and Moreman sent a shot wide before playing a key role in the second goal on 28 minutes.
He was put away on the right, skinned his marker and drove the ball across goal. Ujah sliced it towards his own goal but Semple made sure of things on the goal-line.
The visitors did put a bit of pressure on before the break but, in general, the Corby defence stood strong and Paul Walker was left largely untroubled.
But the visitors nearly pulled a goal back 40 seconds into the second half when Steve Cawley wriggled free from Crowe and, although his shot beat Walker, Galinski was there to clear it off the line.
Bishop’s continued to have the better of things and their hopes of getting back into it were given a further boost just past the hour.
Bailey-Dennis caught Vieira with high challenge on the touchline. No free-kick was given and, in the next phase of play, the Corby striker - clearly upset - flew in on Bailey-Dennis with an equally high tackle.
That was seen and Mr Blackledge had no choice but show him red. Had he seen the earlier tackle it may not have happened but there was no excuse for the retaliation.
Plummer had his say to the referee but it all left the Steelmen facing half-an-hour with 10 men.
Initially, they looked okay but they proved to be far too careless in possession and that proved their undoing as the visitors levelled things up with two goals in a minute.
First, substitute Reneil Sappleton barged his way through a couple of challenges and teed up Jordan Roberts who beat Walker with a crisp, low finish.
And just seconds after the restart, disaster struck as Cawley raced through on goal and made no mistake with a low shot into the corner.
From there, only one team looked likely to get a winner and the Steelmen were forced to throw their bodies in all sorts of dangerous places as the visitors laid siege to their penalty area.
But defend they did and they even got a stroke of luck in the final minute when Galinski clearly brought down substitute Seedy Njie. The referee said no this time, much to the surprise of everyone.
This was a game Corby probably would have won had it not been for Vieira’s moment of madness.
But a point it is. It’s better than nothing. But, make no mistake, Saturday’s trip to Colwyn Bay will now be crucial in deciding who stays up and who goes down come April 27.
Steelmen: Walker; Ives, Crowe, Galinski, Jelleyman; L Webb, Wedderburn; Semple, McGowan, Moreman (sub Manga, 60 mins); Vieira. Subs not used: Richardson, Bryan, Greer.
Bishop’s Stortford: Pentney; Baker, Ujah (sub Glasgow, 35 mins), Francis, Bailey-Dennis, Herd; Johnson, C Webb (sub Sappleton, 65 mins), Prestedge; Cawley (sub Njie, 88 mins), Roberts. Subs not used: Waller-Lassen, Abdullahi.
Referee: Michael Blackledge.
Goals: Vieira pen (5 mins, 1-0), Semple (28 mins, 2-0), Roberts (73 mins, 2-1), Cawley (74 mins, 2-2).
Bookings: Ujah, Wedderburn, McGowan (all fouls), Semple, L Webb (both dissent).
Sending-off: Vieira (violent conduct).