A late Ben Godfrey goal saw Lewes grab a potentially vital point at Hendon on Saturday – but the Rooks made heavy weather of it against a hosts reduced to NINE men after barely 20 minutes.
Lewes had to come from two goals behind to secure a valuable point in their fight to avoid the drop.
In a dramatic game, the first major incident came in the ninth minute, when Sam Flegg unfairly denied Nathan Crabb in the box and was sent off by referee Elliott Kaye.
A normally reliable penalty taker, Karl Beckford had a chance to put the Rooks in the lead from the resulting spot kick, but rifled his effort against the crossbar,
Five minutes later, Hendon were ahead when Dean Cracknell headed home a Scott Cousins free kick.
But with 21 minutes gone Hendon had a second player sent off, when referee Mr Kaye felt Casey Maclaren had used his arm in an altercation with Crabb. The official’s decision – which also saw Crabb booked – surprised Hendon and Lewes players alike and angered the home bench.
But if they felt aggrieved, they took it out on Lewes in the best possible way – with a second goal on 32 minutes. Cracknell found Kevin Maclaren in space and he slotted the ball home past Lewes keeper Tom Betts, making his debut in goal in place of the injured Kieron Thorp.
A stunned Lewes were handed a lifeline just before the break, when Jack Walder was fould just inside the area, and this time player-boss Simon Wormull stepped up to convert the penalty.
The second half was one-way traffic, with Lewes laying seige on Hendon’s goal. Defender Chris Breach was kept up front as Lewes tried to breach Hendon’s defences with a number of crosses sent into the Greens’ box.
But these crosses were coming to nothing and, just as Lewes fans were thinking they were witnessing a season’s new low, second half substitute Godfrey popped up for a vital equaliser with five minutes to go.
A Steve Brinkhurst cross from the left found its way to Godfrey and his shot on the turn at the near post beat keeper Sean Thomas to draw the scores level.
There was still some drama before the final whistle, with Harry Harding forcing Thomas into a stoppage time save, and Betts having to scramble back to claw his own miscontrolled save away from goal.
Lewes had made heavy weather of it but they deserved something out of the game – as did Hendon for defending for 70 minutes with nine men.
The result, along with results elsewhere, mean that Hendon are now mathematically safe from relegation, with seven games to go. If only Lewes could say the same. The Rooks – sitting just one place and two points above the relegation zone – now have two huge homes games this week, with Margate up first to the Dripping Pan on Thursday (kick off 7.45pm) before Leiston’s visit on Saturday (3pm).
Lewes: Betts, Wormull (Ozga 82), Kay, Walder (Godfrey 57), Breach, Malins, Brinkhurst, Harding, Crabb, Beckford (Stubbings 82), Dunne
Unused subs: Lewis, Madhani.