Alfreton Town manager John McDermott was happy as the Reds gained their first point at home since mid-September and ended a run of six defeats at the Impact Arena.
Reece Styche spectacularly put Darlington in the driving seat after James Baxendale slipped in the eighth minute, pouncing on the loose ball to cut in from the right and hammer past Chris Elliott from distance.
Alfreton fought back, though, and were rewarded two minutes from time when James Talbot inexplicably lashed out at Tom Allan.
The keeper was dismissed and, after a lengthy delay when outfield player Gary Brown went in goal, Brendon Daniels converted the spot-kick to slot to maintain the Reds’ position above their National League North relegation rivals.
There was still a sting in the tail as young Reds defender Pierce Bird was sent off for a reckless tackle on Harvey Saunders in the sixth minute of added time.
McDermott said: “The lads showed character. We kept going and that’s what you get.
“We said at half-time we had scored seven goals in the last two games, so there was always a goal in us.
“We said to try to force a mistake and that’s what’s happened.
“Brendon was big enough to step up and take it — and it was a good penalty.
“Should we have tried to kick on and get the winner against 10 men? As much as you want to, you have got to make sure you don’t lose.
“l think the point was a good point.
“They’re still below us, but we have got to make sure we don’t get beaten by the teams in and around us.”
McDermott said he did not think Darlington would have scored if Baxendale had not slipped.
“We created some good chances in the first half and the keeper has pulled off a good save,” said McDermott.
“The two up front [Sharp and Mulhern] looked lively.
“In the second half we changed it a bit and gambled with Tom [Allan] going up top.
“We didn’t want to lose 1-0, we went for it and got the goal .
“The keeper’s had a bit of a head-loss, but l don’t care how we got it.
“Then it was (a case of)making sure we didn’t lose.”
Before Styche’s opener, the Reds should have been in front when a Daniels cross left Ryan Jennings with only the keeper to beat, but his initial shot from close range was blocked and he injured himself as he attempted to poke the rebound home.
Frank Mulhern twice, Chris Sharp and Tom Platt all went close as Alfreton tried hard to find a way back into the game, while Talbot pulled off a magnificent save to pluck away a Daniels free-kick bound for the top corner.
ALFRETON: Elliott, Wood, Shiels, Bird, Allan, Platt, Jennings, Baxendale [Disley 58], Daniels, Mulhern [Johnson 73], Sharp.
Referee: Dean Watson.