The Cobblers’ life under new manager Chris Wilder got off to the worst possible start at Cheltenham but they recovered to secure a share of the points through a Matt Blair volley.
Jamie Cureton scored after less than a minute to give Wilder a nightmare start at Whaddon Road.
But Town improved enormously in the second half and scored the equalising goal their efforts deserved through Blair 15 minutes from time.
Though the visitors pressed for a winner, they did not test Scott Brown any further and the contest ended 1-1.
Results elsewhere mean Northampton remain six points adrift of safety in Sky Bet League Two but this was an encouraging display, particularly in its latter stages.
The hosts went in front with one of the simplest goals Cureton will have scored in his long career.
Just 59 seconds had passed when a long pass over the top bounced innocuously in front of Duke, whose poor positioning meant it spun over his head and presented Cureton with a tap-in.
Credit must go to the veteran forward for anticipating the mistake but it was a bad one by the goalkeeper, who has been in good form throughout the season until a few recent poor moments.
The size of that task would have loomed large before Wilder at that point but his team responded well, with a good Antonio German run and pass teeing up Ian Morris for a shot that hit the foot of the far post.
Sam Deering went close with a glanced header and a rifled volley at the other end as the windy conditions made cohesive play difficult.
Cureton timed his run to absolute perfection to race onto a through pass early in the second half and though he beat Duke to the ball, Lee Collins was on hand to mop up the danger.
Darren Carter had a quiet return on his return to Cheltenham, striking one particularly good low shot that Scott Brown turned around his left-hand post.
Town were much more of a force in the game in the second half, with substitute Emile Sinclair putting pressure on the home defence with his speed.
It paid off 15 minutes from time when Morris swung over the decisive cross for Blair.
The home defence stood and watched as the winger cleverly broke to the front post and volleyed past Brown.
Cheltenham: S Brown, Jombati, T Brown, Ihiekwe, Braham-Barrett, Lucas, Deering, Richards, Roofe, Cureton, Harrison
Subs: McGlashan (for Lucas 85), Gornell (for Harrison 85)
Not used: Taylor, Elliott, Roberts, Vincent, Brundle
Cobblers: Duke, Tozer, Collins, Doumbe, Widdowson, Blair, Carter, Ravenhill, Morris, Connell, German
Subs: Sinclair (for Connell 57), McSweeney (for Tozer 57)
Not used: O’Donovan, Snedker, Deegan, McGinty, Toney
Away fans: 352