The Mickleover Sports bogey struck again for Matlock Town as the rugged Derby side battled to a 2-2 draw to put a stutter into the Gladiators charge towards the Evo-Stick NPL Premier Division play-offs.
Matlock twice came behind, so from that view it was a point gained, but overall it was a below par showing where they were bullied out of the game.
They would surely have been looking for all three points from the home game and the two points dropped saw them slip two places to fifth.
Matlock were subject to a lot of rough treatment from Sports players, who appeared to be allowed to get away with it. When former Matlock loanee Jack Broadhead saw red for his second yellow card, there was only a minute left.
It was surprising that Broadhead was the only player shown a card and the referee did not clamp down on time-wasting by Sports keeper Nick Draper, who was slowing play down from the early part of the opening half.
However, Matlock never got going in a game crying out for a touch of extra quality and class.
A good-sized crowd of 524, including around 20 from Mickleover, waited for the home side to assert themselves, but they never did.
The initial signs looked promising for Matlock as Draper held an Adam Yates header in the fifth minute, followed by striker Marcus Dinanga cutting inside from the right before dragging his shot wide and Dwayne Wiley nodding a free kick directly at the keeper.
Broadhead received his first booking for a poor challenge on Ted Cribley in the 20th minute, but the referee seemed to be missing other Sports fouls.
Cribley fired straight at Draper before, against the run of the play, the dangerous Andy Dales engineered the opening goal for Sports in the 32nd minute.
The winger eased past Liam Marsden on the left to set up former Eire international and much-travelled striker Clinton Morrisson, who steered a low shot past Phil Barnes.
Matlock needed to respond quickly and the equaliser should have come three minutes before the interval when Dinanga created a marvellous chance for Niall McManus, who scooped his shot over with only Draper to beat.
Right half-time Matlock found the net from the penalty spot, Dinanga calmly stroked in his 28th goal of the season after Paul Ennis had been chopped down.
That should have been the fillip Matlock needed to go on and win the game. Curtis Morrison replaced Paul Ennis at the interval, but the Gladiators nearly made the worst possible start to the second half when inside the opening minute Joe Doyle-Charles carelessly gave the ball away and it needed a fine save from Barnes to deny Tyler Blake in a one-on-one duel.
At the other end, shots from Cribley and Michael Williams were both off target as Matlock still required an extra spark.
The hosts looked in trouble when their defence opened up to leave Blake in space to slip the calmest of finishes low past Barnes to regain the lead for Sports on 61 minutes.
But Matlock were back on level terms again within three minutes, Williams curled one of his trademark free kicks over the wall and in off the underside of the bar.
The rest of the game was played almost exclusively in the Sports half but Matlock did not create enough chances to take all three points.
Nico de Girolamo fired comfortably wide and Curtis Morrison shot over following a penalty box scramble.
After Broadhead’s dismissal, Williams headed wide from a corner as the Gladiators had to settle for just a point.
MATLOCK TOWN: Phil Barnes, Liam Marsden, Nico De Girolamo, Joe Doyle-Charles, Adam Yates, Dwayne Wiley, Niall McManus, Michael Williams, Paul Ennis (Curtis Morrison 46), Marcus Dinanga, Ted Cribley. Subs not used: Andy Wright, Jake Green, Cleveland Taylor, Marc Newsham.
REFEREE: Sam Mulhall (Northwich).
BEST GLADIATOR: Michael Williams.