A late Jimmy Ryan header rescued a point for Chesterfield in a thrilling North Derbyshire-South Yorkshire derby against Doncaster Rovers at the Proact Stadium.
The Spireites trailed inside the first ten minutes when James Coppinger gave the visitors the early advantage and then Andy Butler putting Rovers in to dreamland.
But a determined response from the hosts saw top scorer Eoin Doyle get his 25th goal of the season just before the break with a neat finish before Ryan’s late heroics.
Chesterfield were grateful for two vital saves from Tommy Lee when left one-on-one with Doncaster forwards to keep his side in a game that threatened to get away from them at stages.
A battling display earned a point for Chesterfield to keep them fifth in the League One table against a play-off chasing Rovers side who extend their unbeaten away run.
Paul Cook named one change to the Chesterfield line up from midweek’s convincing 3-0 win over bottom side Crawley Town, with Dan Gardner coming in for his first start since November 1 for the injured Armand Gnanduillet.
Gardner has been around the first team picture for a long time, his last seven appearances coming from the bench, and has been given the chance to impress from the start behind top scorer Doyle for the Spireites.
Cook’s new signing Byron Harrison had to settle for a place among the substitutes, but Doncaster’s new boy Uche Ikpeazu, who joined this week on loan from Watford, was thrown straight in to the mix by Paul Dickov.
Gardner was given a warm welcome back to action by Doncaster centre-half Butler early on, who got the ball and followed through on the man to leave the Chesterfield attacker on the floor and one to shake off.
The visitors then went ahead when Luke McCullogh sent a long ball forward to Coppinger inside right, the midfielder brought it down superbly and had all the time in the world to clip a shot in to the top corner beyond Lee.
Chesterfield appealed for offside but the assistant referee’s flag never came and Doncaster had got themselves an early advantage, which they were to double a few minutes later to the delight of the travelling 2,000 fans.
Harry Forrester floated a corner to the back post where Butler rose highest, above a sea of blue shirts, to head down and in to the net. Lee raced after referee, Darren Deadman, seemingly feeling there was a foul not spotted.
The Spireites needed a lift from somewhere and Sam Morsy looked to give them that. He forced a save from Stephen Bywater, diving low to his left, before his second attempt flashed wide of the opposite post from the edge of the box.
Jay O’Shea saw his shot deflected wide while at the other end Tendayi Darikwa made a last-ditch tackle to deny Coppinger a shooting chance, as the Doncaster man ran through the heart of the Spireites’ defence.
Gardner was unable to continue from his early knock and was replaced by Ian Evatt as the home side switched to three at the back and pushed men forward in search of finding a way back in to the game before half time.
O’Shea and Sam Clucas were pushed up alongside Doyle in a three-man attack. O’Shea should have pulled one back for the hosts when Clucas’ cross found him yards out but he volleyed over from point blank range.
Evatt forced Bywater in to a good stop ti his right at full stretch and from the following corner Clucas went over under the attentions of Butler but the referee remained unmoved and awarded a goal kick.
Chesterfield had stepped it up a gear and got the reward their efforts deserved when Doyle chested Morsy’s cross down and tucked the ball beyond Bywater three minutes before the break to give the home side renewed hope.
Harrison was introduced to the action at half-time in place of Dan Jones, as the home side tinkered again with O’Shea in behind a front two of Doyle and Harrison. Clucas filled in on the left, as Cook kept with three in defence.
Kyle Bennett strode forward over half way and found Curtis Main, who cut inside his man and sent a curling effort that was straight at Lee. Doncaster were playing on the break and when Forrester bundled through Lee was equal once more.
The Chesterfield keeper then made two crucial saves when left one-on-one with opposing forwards. Main showed neat footwork to get through and was denied before Ikpeazu saw his effort thwarted by another impressive stop.
Morsy dropped his shoulder to give himself half a yard before he unleashed a powerful drive that Bywater turned around the post and the Spireites thought they had a stonewall penalty when Doyle was bundled over. Mr Deadman unmoved.
Ikpeazu proved a difficult man to shrug off the ball and he showed his strength to hold off three challenges before deciding to shoot, this time beating Lee but the post coming to Chesterfield’s rescue on this occasion.
Rovers substitute Kyle Bennett, who had already been shown a yellow in the first half, must have been close to a second when he twice caught Clucas late. He was duly replaced by Nathan Tyson by the visitors’ coaching team.
Bywater was quick off his line to prevent Doyle’s advances but the danger wasn’t cleared and the striker recovered to tee up Clucas, who delivered to the back post for Jimmy Ryan only for Enda Stevens to head behind for a corner.
The resulting corner came to nothing and the hosts would be disappointed with their set piece deliveries on the whole, too often not getting past the front post in a flurry of second half corners. Doncaster looked to wind the clock down.
Chesterfield piled on the pressure and it paid off just minutes before the final whistle when substitute Ritchie Humphreys crossed to the back post where Doyle nodded back across goal for Ryan to head in at the far post.
Not content with a point, the Spireites sensed there could be more in the offing and flooded forward. Harrison saw a shot blocked and Clucas volleyed wide of the target but the hosts had to settle for a point in the play-off race.
Teams and stats
Chesterfield: Lee; Darikwa, Hird, Raglan, Jones (Harrison HT), O’Shea (Humphreys 63), Morsy, Ryan, Clucas, Gardner (Evatt 28), Doyle
Subs not used: Wright, Banks, Dieseruvwe, Ariyibi
Doncaster: Bywater; Forrester, Main, McCullough, Butler, Stevens, Keegan, Wellens, Ikpeazu (Furman 72), Wabara, Coppinger (Bennett 30, Tyson 63)
Subs not used: Marosi, McCombe, Wakefield, Robinson
Goals: Doyle 43, Ryan 87 (Chesterfield); Coppinger 3, Butler 9 (Doncaster)
Bookings: O’Shea (Chesterfield); Bennett (Doncaster)
Referee: Darren Deadman (Cambridgeshire)
Attendance: 7,839 (1,806)