A last gasp penalty by Brad Lawley earned Sporting Khalsa a point over early season high fliers Highgate United.
In a clash between the champions of their respective divisions last season, this was a keenly fought affair which, for long periods, the home side were dominant.
A total of 12 yellow cards and one red was hardly reflective of what was a physical but far from dirty encounter, Khalsa’s Mike Perks – excellent throughout – the unlucky player who saw what was by the second half an inevitable dismissal.
Highgate almost took the lead on five minutes, a header by free scoring striker Lei Brown bouncing off the crossbar from Dale Taylor’s excellent free kick.
Brown was again at the centre of the action on 15 minutes, a long-range free kick forcing James Pemberton into action.
Khalsa gradually eased themselves into the play, however, and Marvin Nisbett was denied in a dangerous position by Scott Turner before Perks forced a good save from keeper Bradley Catlow.
But just as the visitors were settling into the game, Highgate struck on the break. Tyrone Smith fed Connor Mooney on 34 minutes, his shot across goal parried well by Pemberton only for the predatory Brown to evade the attentions of Joe Rogers and slot home.
It was a half time lead the home side probably deserved, on balance.
Khalsa emerged for the second half noticeably more energised and set about making more of their possession, without carving out any clear cut chances. Pemberton was again in the thick of the action on 58 minutes, producing a really good save from Scott Turner’s header from another probing Taylor free kick.
In the final half hour of the game it was Khalsa who stepped up a gear in pursuit of an equaliser.
On 80 minutes a header by Simeon Townsend from Rogers’ free kick came rebounding off the woodwork in what looked like Khalsa’s best chance of restoring parity.
A share of the points looked even more remote on 83 minutes when Perks was dismissed for an accumulation of innocuous fouls. But in the dying moments of stoppage time, Townsend was bundled over in the penalty area and Lawley was able to step up and with all the composure and calmness in the world dispatch the penalty past Catlow.
Sporting Khalsa: James Pemberton; Carlo Franco, Jordan Uppal (Michael Nelson), Joe Rogers (captain), Tes Robinson; Mike Perks, Brad Lawley, Craig Bannister, Marvin Nisbett, Mensah Kinch; Rikardo Reid (Simeon Townsend).
Man-of-the-match: Mike Perks