Lewes came from behind three times to earn themselves a thoroughly deserved draw in a New Year’s Day thriller at the Pilot Field.
Hosts Hastings United showed no signs of having one eye on their massive FA Cup tie with Middlesbrough on Saturday as they took the lead three times, through Dee Okojie, Bradley Goldberg (penalty) and Scott Manning.
But the Rooks showed great resolve to level each time thanks to strikes from Jack Walder, Simon Wormull and Karl Beckford (penalty).
And Lewes could even have nicked it at the end as the visitors through everything at Hastings, after the hosts had Manning sent off late on for the foul that resulted in Beckford’s penalty strike.
Hastings took the lead against the run of play on 15 minutes when a breakaway saw Okojie hook in a left-footed shot past Thorp. But it was all square moments later when Walder was first to the loose ball and side-footed in after George Howard had saved a shot from Nathan Crabb.
Lewes then had chances to take the lead but Howard did well to deny Ben Godfrey before Chris Breach uncharacteristically missed a free header from a corner, then Crabb suffered an even bigger miss with a header from six yards following a Jon Dollery cross.
Meanwhile, at the other end, Okojie sliced out of play after good build-up work, Danny Ellis fired well over from 25 yards and Goldberg hit the side netting after showing suberb skills to beat full back Dollery.
But the hosts regained their lead on 35 minutes when former Arrow Walder was harshly adjudged to have delibertately hand-balled an Ian Daly shot from point-blank range.
Goldberg stepped up to fire the resulting spot kick high to Thorp’s right, the Rooks keeper unlucky to get a hand on the shot but not keep it out.
However, the visitors levelled again almost immediately, and this time it was they who scored on the break, when player/manager Wormull fired in a beauty from the edge of the area after a potential United move involving Goldberg and Daly had broken down.
However, Hastings grabbed back their lead once again when, on 43 minutes, former Rook Manning nodded home after keeper Thorp had pulled off a wonderful double save on his line in a vain effort to keep the hosts out.
Despite that the Rooks could still have gone into the break level had Steve Brinkhurst not just missed the right-hand upright having beating keeper Howard.
Hastings had an early second half chance to extend their lead through Ellis, but the midfielder wasted his opportunity.
Meanwhile, Lewes efforts to get at the hosts’ goal were denied by Hastings defending in great numbers in and around their own box.
At the other end, Jack Dixon should have made it four for Hastings on 63 minutes but headed wide from a good Elliott Cox cross - before, at the other end, Lewes substitute Layton Schaaf, on for Walder, forced a good low save from Howard.
Goldberg then dragged an effort well wide as the Rooks pressed hard for an equaliser.
It was a costly mistake as the visitors’ second half efforts finally paid off with 12 minutes to go, when referee David Spain gave his second spot kick of the match. This time it was for Lewes, for shirt-pulling by Manning on the pacey Crabb. Manning was shown a straight red card for the foul and Karl Beckford stepped up to drill home to put the away side level for the third time in the match.
But despite intense Lewes pressure - and an appeal for a second Rooks penalty - in the last 10 minutest agains the 10 men of United, Wormull’s men couldn’t quite find the opening for a dramatic late winner.
Lewes stay 13th in the Ryman Premier after neighbouring teams Met Police and Leiston also both drew.
The Rooks now entertain Hampton and Richmond at the Dripping Pan on Saturday (January 5).
UTD: George Howard, Elliott Cox (Tom Vickers 81), Matt Whitehead, Jamie Crellin, Sean Ray, Scott Manning (c), Danny Ellis (Lee Carey 74), Jack Dixon, Dee Okojie (Jono Richardson 80), Ian Daly, Bradley Goldberg.
SUBS: Lee Carey, Jono Richardson, Tom Vickers, Josh Jirbandey, Gary Abbott.
BOOKED: Whitehead, Vickers. SENT OFF: Manning.
ROOKS: Thorp, Brinkhurst, Dollery, Walder (Schaaf 52), Breach, Donaghey, Godfrey, Dunne, Beckford, Wormull.
SUBS: Stubbings, Strong, Kay, Schaaf.
REF: David Spain. ATTENDANCE: 771.