Matlock Town scored twice in stoppage time to rescue an unlikely 3-3 draw in the Boxing Day derby with Buxton.
That fightback and the blame for it could be put firmly at Buxton goalkeeper Jan Budtz’s door.
He was red-carded for booting Michael Williams, who was on the floor after he had been brought down by Andy McWilliams.
In a delay lasting several minutes, Williams was also sent off after reacting when he was allegedly spat upon by Ant Wilson.
This unsavoury incident came with 20 minutes left and Buxton 2-0 to the good.
Buxton, with no recognised goalkeeper named amongst their substitutes, put defender Joe Maguire between the sticks, and conceded three, despite re-establishing their two goal lead by the 79th minute.
Buxton made an aggressive start with Ricky Ravenhill’s strong but two footed challenge on Joe Doyle-Charles going unpunished inside the opening minute.
Then with only seven minutes on the clock, Liam Hardy, who would go on to net a hat-trick, punched Adam Yates in the face, and was only booked.
Hardy gave the visitors a 12th minute lead after former Bucks custodian Phil Barnes had done well to keep out the initial shot.
Matlock were struggling to find a foothold and when Hardy released a screaming volley from 20 yards that Barnes scarcely saw on 26 minutes, the Gladiators looked in tons of trouble.
Buxton appealed for a spot kick when Luke Hinsley went down under Dwayne Wiley’s challenge before Matlock finally showed some dangerous intent around the half hour mark.
Doyle-Charles had a shot charged down, before Williams drove into the sidenetting.
Shaun Harrad flicked a header straight at Budtz from Williams’ 39th minute free-kick but Buxton went in at half time firmly in command.
Hinsley drove too high and Hardy pushed the ball beyond Barnes before Wiley cleaned up in the opening minutes of the second half.
Kieran Wallace curled a free kick narrowly wide before a dangerous Jake Green centre was narrowly out of Cribley’s radar.
Matlock’s performance was improving as the match wore on and pulled a goal back when Harrad slotted home from a penalty.
Most of the 920 crowd got behind Matlock’s recovery bid which looked to have taken a nosedive when Harcourt was adjudged to have brought down Hardy, who dusted himself down to score convincingly.
That appeared to settle it, especially with Buxton seemingly sensibly playing keep ball by the corner flags.
Substitute Joe McGee had an effort cleared off the line by Green before Matlock embarrassed Buxton, and in particular Budtz with their late show.
Harrad was in just the right place to touch in a Green centre with the game ninety seconds into stoppage time to halve the deficit.
They surged forward with the crowd showing renewed encouragement, and it was perhaps poetic justice that saw skipper Yates net that all important equaliser.
The Bucks defence was all at sea as the ball was launched into the box and with the pressure firmly on stand-in custodian Maguire, Yates was on hand to score from a couple of yards with six minutes of added time played.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Phil Barnes 2 Micky Harcourt (12 Rhys Sharpe 90+3) 3 Kieran Wallace 4 Joe Doyle-Charles 5 Adam Yates 6 Dwayne Wiley 7 Jake Green 8 Michael Williams 9 Shaun Harrad 10 Jamie Jackson 11 Ted Cribley Other subs: 14 Max Hunt 15 Nico Degirolamo 16 Nathan Whitehead 17 Jordan Pierrpont
BUXTON: 1 Jan Budtz 2 Matt Baker 3 Andy McWilliams 4 Ricky Ravenhill 5 Kern Miller 6 Joe Maguire 7 Josh Meade 8 Jack Broadhead 9 Ant Wilson (14 Joe McGee 71) 10 Liam Hardy 11 Luke Hinsley Other subs: 12 Sam Smith 15 Jake Williams 16 Ryan McDermott 17 Curtis Morrison
REFEREE: Andrew Smith (Castleford).
BEST GLADIATOR: Jamie Jackson.
BEST BUCK: Liam Hardy.