Norwich City tonight inched their way one place further up the Sky Bet Championship table courtesy of an extraordinary 2-2 draw at Huddersfield Town.
The game looked for the world to be petering out into a rather lame 1-1 draw before James Vaughan grabbed a 95th minute ‘winner’ – only for his celebrations to be cut short with a red card for over-doing his delight at that late, late strike.
But, remarkably, that was not the final moment of drama as Canary youngster Jamar Loza conjured up his first senior goal for the club in the shape of a 99th minute leveller.
The 20-year-old’s effort into the top corner had pulled the most unlikely of points out of the bag.
With Middlesbrough winning at Derby and Watford picking up three points at Wigan, the Canaries are now five points shy of top spot.
But, as ever, there will be twists and turns aplenty before the end and the Wesley Hoolahan fan club will be particularly delighted to see their man delivering the goods when it mattered – it was the 32-year-old’s 67th minute leveller that initially looked to give Norwich a deserved share of the spoils.
The trick at this point of the season is not to lose games and let the wind slip from your sails. Any away point is a good point – if you can then match that to a run of home wins.
And if one of those home wins can be against Boro’ then the Canaries still have every chance of making a swift return to the top flight.
Afterwards, boss Alex Neil did nothing to hide his disappointment. When results start to mean everything, Norwich failed to deliver the result he was expecting.
A disallowed goal for Bradley Johnson which took officialdom an eternity to rule on hardly helped his black mood.
“I’m not happy because our objective before the game was to come here and get the three points – and we didn’t do that,” he said simply.
“At this stage of the season, performances and hard luck stories don’t wash with me,” he added. “If you deserve to win the game, you come here and you win it. And we didn’t win it.”
The reasons for that were equally straight-forward in his eyes.
“Basically, we let in two sloppy goals and didn’t score enough goals with the chances that we had,” he told BBC Radio Norfolk.
“At this stage in the season, it’s about wins. And we didn’t do that. And from that point of view I’m extremely disappointed.”
Did he take any pride in City’s late, late comeback – to at least salvage a point?
“None,” was the response. “I said to them beforehand if we have any aspirations of challenging the top teams we need to come to places like here and win games.”
For tonight’s trip north, Neil opted to put his best attacking foot forward as Nathan Redmond found himself restored to the starting line-up along with Gary Hooper.
Hoolahan and Alexander Tettey were the two to make way from Saturday’s 1-1 draw at home to Derby as the Canaries looked to continue their compelling away form and force their way ever more into the automatic promotion reckoning.
The fact that Derby were entertaining Middlesbrough would, in theory, help their cause. A draw between those two would suit Neil and Co just nicely.
Cameron Jerome was the first to set sight on the Terriers goal; his fifth minute header off an early Redmond cross being comfortably blocked. The City top scorer would slash horribly wide just after the half-hour mark off a Bradley Johnson flick on. Nothing was quite clicking in front of goal.
At the other end, John Ruddy started to make amends for his second-half howler when he dealt with a Jake Lynch effort off a cross by one-time City ‘wonder boy’ signing Jacob Butterfield. He might feel in need of proving a point to his disappointed former employers.
All square at the break, Johnson was first to show after the interval as he whistled two wide.
Then it was the Terriers turn. Butterfield was the provider as he set up Ishmael Miller to drill the home side ahead in the 54th minute. It wasn’t pretty defensively. Nor was the second.
Neil’s response was to throw Hoolahan into the fray for Johnson and within five minutes gained his reward as the Dubliner pulled Norwich level with his fourth goal of the season.
The question now was whether the game had one more decisive moment in it.
With 77 minutes gone, Tony Andreu replaced Hooper – begging the question whether Neil had decided to grab the point while he can; to stay unbeaten on his travels.
Loza’s arrival three minutes from the end confounded that particular notion. Whether Neil had any inkling of what was to follow is, of course, a hugely moot point. But the kid bagged him another point.
Stay unbeaten between now and the end of the season and the Scot will at least deliver his new employers a place in the play-offs.
What he needs to avoid is Wigan-like slip-ups at home. Does that and a midweek point at Huddersfield (a) might be all that it needs.