Exeter City stretched their unbeaten run to 11 games in all competitions as they put in a high-energy, battling display at Crawley Town to take a point.
The hosts, who had won six out of their eight Sky Bet League Two homes games this season, took the lead just after the hour mark when Filipe Morais curled home a shot from just inside the box but Matt Taylor’s men battled back superbly to level through Lee Holmes and came closest to winning the match late on when Lee Martin had an effort cleared off the line.
City manager Matt Taylor made two changes to the starting XI as leading scorer Jayden Stockley, who suffered through illness in the days leading up to the match, dropped to the bench along with Holmes. That meant Matt Jay and Lee Martin with both recalled to the side.
However, there was a further disruption to City’s plans when Hiram Boateng, originally named in the starting XI, dropped out in the warm up to be replaced by Jordan Tillson.
Not to be deterred though, City started the brighter and pressed well from the front forcing a home side that had scored in every league match at home since Boxing Day last year, into plenty of mistakes.
Jonathan Forte, who produced some good hold up play early on, was first to go close as he pounced on a loose ball and fired over from 20 yards inside the opening minute of the match. Then Jake Taylor sent an inviting ball across the face of goal that nobody could turn home.
However, after that, it was a half of very few chances. Crawley began to dominate possession without troubling Christy Pym, while City were unfortunate with a couple of offside decisions before Jay sent in a low cross that Lee Martin was a yard away from turning home at the near post.
Crawley were first to go close in the second half as they won the ball high up the pitch and Luke Gambin fired an effort on target but it was a comfortable save for Pym.
Matt Taylor then introduced Stockley to proceedings on 56 minutes, for Tillson, and moments later a quick throw-in from Dean Moxey set Forte away down the left and he almost found his strike partner with a low cross but the hosts cleared.
However, just past the hour mark, Crawly took the lead as Ollie Palmer held up a long ball well before feeding a ball into Morais just inside the box and he curled a shot into the far corner.
City almost responded immediately though as Stockley attempted to turn home a low cross from the right, but Glenn Morris produced a good instinctive save, and then Forte hung up a cross to the back post where Stockley, under pressure from a couple defenders, nodded just wide.
At the other end, with 13 minutes to go, Aaron Martin put in a superb sliding block to prevent Palmer from getting on the end of a right-wing cross.
That was a crucial piece of defending, as a minute later City broke from the corner that Aaron Martin had given away and Holmes won a brave header before racing through one-on-one and firing expertly past Morris.
Then as the game approached the 90th minute both sides had great chances to win. First Lee Martin dinked a shot over Morris that was cleared off the line by a covering defender and then Pym had to get up quickly, after making save, to deny Ashley Nathaniel-George’s follow up effort.
However, in the end, the Grecians had to be content with a point that keeps them in the automatic promotion places - a point ahead of fourth-placed Newport County AFC.
Crawley Town: Morris, Young, Payne, Connolly, Palmer, Gambin (Nathaniel-George, 70), Francomb (Bulman, 89, Maguire (Doherty, 64), Vincelot, Morais, Camara. Subs: Mersin, McNerney, Poleon, Allarakhia.
Booked: Gambin, Vincelot, Nathaniel-George, Payne
Exeter City: Pym; Sweeney, A Martin, L Martin, Law, Forte (Abrahams, 85), Jay (Holmes, 65), Moxey, Croll, Taylor, Tillson (Stockley, 56). Subs: Hamon, O’Shea, Woodman.
Booked: Tillson, Taylor