Alfreton Town had to dig deep and show character and resolve, after finding themselves trailing by two goals shortly after half-time at Hereford United on Saturday.
But a welcome point was attained against the side that had been relegated from the Football League at the end of last season, and this enabled the Reds to shoot three places up the Blue Square Bet Premier to 13th spot, although Woking regained that position with their victory over Ebbsfleet United 24 hours later.
The original team sheet had shown Ross Killock at left-back with Connor Franklin on the bench, but the Leeds United loanee pulled out with an injury before kick-off and Franklin’s recall to the side prompted the eventual equaliser with his first goal for the club in just over two years.
Manager Nicky Law opted for a 4-4-2 formation with Theo Streete playing at right-back and Josh Law on the right of midfield.
On a heavy pitch Reds’ keeper Phil Barnes had to punch out a James Musa free-kick in the second minute, with Will Evans firing the loose ball high and wide.
Harry Pell then fired wide for the hosts before Ben Tomlinson reciprocated at the other end, then a slip by a Hereford defender was pounced upon by Paul Clayton but his cross could not reach the supporting Tomlinson.
Home keeper James Bittner had to be alert in the 13th minute when Matty Harriott’s cross sliced off a defender and almost allowed Nathan Arnold to take advantage, then after a quiet spell the deadlock was broken by the Bulls taking a 20th minute lead.
A swift break down the right by Chris Sharp went unchecked, and when his cross was delivered Ryan Bowman simply steered the ball into the net from eight yards.
Marley Watkins was allowed a similar lengthy run eight minutes later, but this time Bowman’s header missed the target, then in Alfreton’s most dangerous attack to date in the 34th minute Clayton volleyed over from eight yards in receipt of Law’s cross.
Just three minutes later though Clayton made amends with the equaliser from almost the same spot, scooping the ball in after Bittner had only managed to parry a cross from the right by Arnold.
With the first half deep into added time Hereford regained their lead when Stefan Stam powered home a header from six yards from an Evans free-kick, and worse was to come just three minutes after the break.
In the 48th minute Barnes had to punch behind Bowman’s angled drive, then from the corner Hereford were allowed two unchallenged headers as Bowman finished off at the near post after Stam’s initial effort appeared to be going wide.
It was beginning to look like an impossible task for the Reds, but they plugged away and kept trying with hope restored nine minutes later.
Leigh Franks took a much shorter throw than usual, maybe because it was from the boggiest part of the ground, but that allowed Streete to nod the ball down for Arnold to find the far corner of the net with an angled drive from ten yards.
Then a further six minutes later came Franklin’s 63rd minute leveller, when Bittner failed to hold his back post header from Law’s deep cross after Streete had again had a helping hand in the build-up.
Franklin had previously scored for Alfreton on January 8th 2011, when Clayton and Arnold had coincidentally also obliged in the 5-3 Conference North win over Stalybridge Celtic at the Impact Arena - Liam Hearn and Anthony Howell were the other scorers on that occasion.
Just three minutes later Harriott almost succeeded in giving the Reds an unlikely lead, but his shot from an Arnold cross took the slightest of deflections off a Hereford defender and drifted behind for a corner.
A looping header from Bowman went close from Andy Corbett’s 70th minute crossfield pass, then a minute later Barnes had to tip over a rasper from Bowman as the Bulls began their charge.
Barnes then held an awkward Watkins cross under pressure from Sharp, then Streete intercepted a Pell delivery from the right that looked destined to reach Bowman.
In the closing stages Barnes saved a low drive from before Bowman squandered as clear a chance as he had received all day, his back post header being cleared by Franks from Sharp’s cross.
ALFRETON: Barnes; Streete, Kempson, Franks, Franklin, Law, Meadows, Harriott, Arnold, Clayton, Tomlinson (Worsfold 81 mins). Subs not used: Taylor, Quinn, Wilson.
ATTENDANCE: 1565 (54 away)