Roarie Deacon’s 20 yard rocket shot in injury time stunned National League leaders Lincoln City to earn a point for Sutton United at Gander Green Lane on Tuesday night.
In the much-anticipated battle of the FA Cup giant killers, United had to defend resolutely with Jamie Collins and Louis John coping admirably with the speed of Lee Angol and physical presence of Matt Rhead.
The first half produced few clear-cut opportunities for either side but Sutton were frustrated to see their appeals for a penalty waved away by referee Dean Treleaven after Adam Coombes was tripped in the box.
Collins had a good chance to give United the lead but his effort from ten yards sailed over the crossbar and Bedsente Gomis directed a header just over when well placed to leave the teams all square at the break.
The Imps took control of the game in the second period and came close to taking the lead twice.
Sean Raggett’s downward header seemed certain to put the visitors ahead until it was deflected onto the crossbar at the last moment by a Sutton defender.
The U’s were thankful to goalkeeper Will Puddy for making a magnificent one-handed save to deny Rhead who let fly with a powerful close range volley.
In the 81st minute, just as both teams seemed content to settle for a point, the Sutton defence was caught out by Sam Habergham’s far post corner which was headed home by Elliott Whitehouse from four yards.
United’s attacking options were largely limited to counter attacks and their delivery from deadball situations gave Lincoln’s defence little cause for concern as the game entered injury time.
But just when it seemed the Imps would earn three more vital points to aid their title tilt and with a few despondent U’s fans drifting out of the exit, Deacon produced another moment of magic.
Seemingly out of nothing the Sutton striker unleashed a ferocious shot from 20 yards that flew past goalkeeper Paul Farman sparking wild scenes of celebration amongst the U’s faithful in a crowd of 2,246.
The point pushes United up to 14th in the National League table on 49 points with seven games remaining.
Sutton assistant manager Micky Stephens was delighted that his side never gave up. He said: “It would have been harsh had we not got something out of this match. I thought it was a terrific game.
“Roarie came up trumps for us once again and got himself another wonder goal at the end.
“We might have defended a bit better for their goal with the corner but it was certainly a moment of magic that got us back into the game. I don’t think there was much between the two teams on the night.”
As well as Deacon’s late strike, Stephens was full of praise for the Sutton defence which excelled against the league's top team.
He said: “I thought that was a real positive. They’re obviously a very physical side.
"They have a set way of playing and you have to admire them for that because it’s taken them to the point of winning the league.
“But I thought we stood up to more or less everything they through at us tonight and gave them a lot to think about in return.
“We gave Louis [John] the job of marking Rhead and it was a good physical battle against an old fashioned centre-forward. Louis certainly gave as good as he got against him.”
United now face two tough away games against relegation-threatened Woking on Saturday and title challengers Tranmere Rovers next Tuesday.
Time is running out for supporters looking to take advantage of Sutton's early bird season ticket offer for 2017/18 with the March 31 deadline getting ever closer.
Existing season ticket holders can renew at just £99 while new supporters can get one for £125. Season tickets for teenagers are £20 and under 12s £10.
For full details visit suttonunited.net.