The Cobblers left it late for the second successive Saturday as Emile Sinclair scored a 90th-minute equaliser to secure a largely undeserved point against Shrewsbury at Sixfields.
Town were second best for long periods against the Shrews, who played for an hour with 10 men following Liam Lawrence’s sending-off for serious foul play.
But Sinclair headed home in the game’s final minute to cancel out James Collins’ goal and preserve Chris Wilder’s record of having never lost back-to-back Cobblers games with a 1-1 draw.
Wilder had named a bold, attack-minded line-up for the game, with Ricky Ravenhill dropped to the bench in favour of new loan addition Joel Byrom and Danny Alfei and Evan Horwood taken out of the squad through injury.
There was also a first start of the season for Ben Tozer, who came in at right-back for Alfei in an otherwise unchanged defence.
The first 20 minutes were a quiet affair but the game came to life when Ivan Tozer was inches away from connecting at the back post with a fizzed cross-field ball from strike partner Marc Richards and Kaid Mohamed measuring a first-time effort straight at visiting keeper Jayson Leutwiler from 25 yards.
The game’s talking point came shortly afterwards, with Lawrence shown a red for what appeared to be an innocuous challenge on Byrom, which the Town midfielder won.
A second look at the incident showed Lawrence went in over the top of the ball and onto Byrom’s ankle. The referee did not hesitate in showing the red card.
Shrewsbury reshuffled, putting central midfielder Ryan Woods on for striker Andy Mangan and continuing the game in a 4-4-1 system.
They were forced into another change just before half-time when Ashley Vincent went off injured to be replaced by striker James Collins.
The Cobblers were not exactly spurred into action by the disruption and in fact it was Shrewsbury who had the first good chance of the second half, Collins drilling wide after a clipped pass had caught out a static home defence.
Jordan Clarke then rattled the underside of the crossbar with a curling shot from distance that bounced down and away to safety.
It felt like a goal was coming and so it proved, with Ben Tozer failing to put enough on a pass back to Duke that was cut off by Collins.
The covering defender, Zander Diamond, slipped, and Collins steered a shot into the far corner.
An uncharacteristically slack piece of play from Diamond then almost led to a second, when his pass to Lee Collins was cut off by Collins, who fed Woods only for Duke to rush off his line and complete a hurried clearance.
The game looked lost but Sinclair had other ideas, glancing home an inswinging Lawson D’Ath cross from right in front of the goalkeeper.
It was more than the Cobblers deserved and while they will not care immediately, there was a lot to concern them in this game.
Cobblers: Duke; Tozer, Diamond, Collins, Robertson; Hackett, O’Toole, Byrom, Mohamed; Toney, Richards
Subs: D’Ath (for Hackett 64), Ravenhill (for Robertson 67), Sinclair (for Toney 67)
Not used: Nicholls, Moyo, Archer, Warburton
Shrewsbury: Leutwiler, Gayle, Knight-Percival, Goldson, Demetriou, Vincent, Lawrence, Wesolowski, Clarke, Akpa-Akpro, Mangan
Subs: Woods (for Mangan 28), Collins (for Vincent 44)
Not used: Vernon, Wildig, Robinson, Halstead
Shrewsbury fans: 442
Referee: Darren Deadman