Sheffield United’s hopes of going up automatically are in the balance after a pulsating 2-2 draw with Brentford, featuring three red cards and four penalties, writes Dom Howson.
Barry Robson and Dave Kitson cancelled out Marcello Trotta’s 24th minute opener before Brentford substitute Bradley Wright-Phillips registered late on.
The result leaves United five points shy of Bournemouth with three matches left.
Caretaker manager Chris Morgan resisted the temptation to alter his starting line-up against fellow promotion rivals Brentford, keeping faith with the same team who defeated Swindon Town last weekend in his first match in charge.
Sheffield superstar and Olympic gold medallist Jessica Ennis was introduced to the crowd just before kick-off.
It was the hosts who made the early running and Tony McMahon fired a shot over the bar while Michael Doyle forced Simon Moore into a smart stop. Moore was later booked for time wasting.
But Brentford went ahead from the penalty spot after George Long was adjudged to have fouled Clayton Donaldson. Long was yellow carded and Trotta made no mistake from 12 yards.
United sought an instant response and Dave Kitson nodded McMahon’s teasing centre wide. A volley from just outside the area from Kevin McDonald flew just off target as Brentford continued to frustrate the hosts.
Referee Keith Stroud was booed off at the interval, having booked eight players, including Long, McMahon, Kitson, Doyle and Harry Maguire.
Five minutes into the second period, United were awarded a spot-kick of their own after Tony Craig was given his marching orders for bundling over Kitson but McMahon failed to make it 1-1.
In the 62nd minute, Lee Hodson was penalised for handling Jamie Murphy’s corner and Barry Robson, brought on for Michael Doyle, smashed in the resulting penalty.
It got even better for United six minutes later as they completed a remarkable turnaround, with Kitson heading in after a fine move, sparking wild celebrations among the home fans.
With 18 minutes left, Maguire fouled Donaldson in the area and the referee sent off the England Under-21 international and pointed to the spot for a fourth time. However, Long came to the Blades rescue, denying Sam Saunders. Moments later, Donaldson became the second Brentford player to be dismissed following a second bookable offence.
But Wright-Phillips broke United’s hearts in the 89th minute when he latched on to Kevin O’Connor’s pass before firing home.
In the dying minutes, Moore produced a brilliant stop to thwart McMahon as Brentford held on.
Sheffield United: Long; McMahon, Maguire, Collins, Hill; Flynn (Forte HT), Doyle, McDonald, Murphy; Kitson, Porter. Substitutes: Higginbotham, Robson, Ironside, McFadzean, Whitehouse, Coyne.
BRENTFORD: Moore, Forshaw, Craig, Dean, Donaldson, Trotta, Logan, Hodson, Diagourago, Reeves, Bidwell. Not used: O’Connor, Saunders, El Alagui, Dallas, Gounet, Wright-Phillips, Forrester.
REFEREE: Keith Stroud (Dorset).