Sixteen places and 26 points separated League Two combatants Chesterfield and Exeter today.
But the Spireites, starting the day off in third, had their hands full for 90 minutes against the hard working visitors to Derbyshire’s Proact Stadium.
Chesterfield had guaranteed a play-off place with their recent victory at Hartlepool and want to end the season on a high.
And with a trip to Dagenham & Redbridge on Easter Monday, they’d wanted a home success today as they seek to make ground on Scunthorpe and Rochdale.
Yet Chesterfield went behind and had a man sent off in a game manager Paul Cook had earlier described as “the biggest game of the season.”
However, the 1-1 result saw them go up to second, as Rochdale lost 3-0 at home to Southend.
Spireites almost had a dream start.
On two minutes, Dan Gardner’s corner found Ian Evatt, whose header was cleared off the line.
But 17 minutes later, a Matt Grimes free-kick deflected of the blue-shorted wall into the net for 1-0 to Exeter.
Sam Hird put a half chance over the bar on the half hour mark, as the home side sought a way back.
With the half time whistle looming, Exeter had to dig deep to resist Chesterfield’s incursions.
Ritchie Humphreys and Armand Gnanduillet replaced Nathan Smith and Dan Gardner at the break.
And Marc Richards nodded a chance just wide three minutes into the second period.
Sam Morsy had a half chance soon after.
And Grecians goalie Christy Pym collected a shot from Tendayi Darikwa.
Chesterfield could have well done without going down to 10 men on 75 minutes.
But Morsy was sent off for a bad tackle on Grimes in midfield.
Yet the Spireites levelled soon afterwards.
Doyle went to ground in the penalty area and took the spot kick himself, with Pym diving the wrong way.
With five minutes left, there was a let off for Cook’s troops.
Scott Bennett forced a cracking save from Tommy Lee, which had the home fans on their feet with a thunderous ovation.
Gary Roberts hit the side netting in the dying minutes.
Chesterfield: Lee; Darikwa, Evatt (c), Cooper, Smith; Gardner, Morsy, Hird, Roberts; Doyle, Richards
Subs: Dunbavin, Humphreys, Togwell, O’Shea, Kearns, Gnanduillet, Beesley
Exeter: Pym; Butterfield, Woodman, Bennett, Coles, Sercombe, Oakley, Richards, Moore-Taylor, O’Flynn, Grimes
Subs: Krysiak, Baldwin, Davies, Nichols, Keohane, Wheeler, Gill
Ref: Rob Lewis (Shrewbury)
Attendance: 7,331 with 227 from Exeter City.
*Read Matthew Brooks in Saturday’s Star