Havant & Waterlooville 3, Robins 3
Cheltenham Town will need to do it all over again at the World of Smile Stadium on Tuesday evening after this absorbing FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round encounter on the south coast.
You couldn’t take your eyes of it for a second, with Havant & Waterlooville coming from 2-0 and then 3-1 down to dramatically square this tie at Westleigh Park.
It was the Robins' first visit here, and their first FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round tie for 18 years since beating Taunton Town by a 3-2 scoreline.
They last tasted defeat at this stage in 1994, losing to Bashley on that occasion, and they needed to really dig in at times to take their place in Monday evening’s draw.
The Robins were a width of a post on two occasions from winning it late on, but that would have been harsh on their determined and spirited opponents from a division below.
The Hawks came into this one on the back of five straight Vanarama South defeats and sat fourth bottom at the start of the day but belied their current run of form to frustrate Gary Johnson’s side.
Danny Wright gave the Robins a narrow lead the break, winning and converting an injury time penalty to notch his eight goal this term and Aaron Downes doubled the lead five minutes into the second half.
Dan Strugnell gave his side an immediate lifeline, which seemed to be in vain when Wright added his second with 18 minutes to play.
But James Hayter, almost immediately, and Matt Paterson added two late goals to book the return trip to Gloucestershire in four days time.
With a tricky visit to high-flying Grimsby Town on Friday night, it's fair to say that this was the outcome the manager probably wanted to avoid.
Gary Johnson made two changes to the side that were held by Eastleigh at the World of Smile Stadium last weekend.
Lee Vaughan came in (for Jack Barthram) at right wing back and Billy Waters was drafted in attack (Amari Morgan-Smith) while winger James Dayton, who arrived at the club earlier in the week, joined youth prospect Luke Thomas on the bench.
Thomas was only four days off becoming the youngest player to appear for the club, a record held by Simon Goodwin, but as it turned out he was an used replacement.
Former Robins loanees Jake Thomson and Marvin Morgan were named amongst the substitutes for the Hawks, who famously led twice at Anfield at the fourth round stage eight years ago.
Here it was Cheltenham that made the brighter start, probing the home defence from the wide areas and registered the first real chance of the game when Harry Pell rifled one a foot wide of the left upright from fully 25 yards.
But the home side stuck to their task and began to fashion a handful of openings of their own, causing a few nervy moments in the Robins defence. Their first opening arrived with 19 minutes on the clock when Paterson clipped one on target from the edge of the box, but Dillon Phillips was alive to the danger.
Waters went close a couple of moments later, rolling one wide on the turn, while at the other end Ben Swallow thumped an effort narrowly wide after a well-worked move from a corner.
It was clear that Lanre Azeez, the pacey winger who started on the right, was the home side’s main outlet and caused problems with his searing pace, even for George McLennan who’s no slouch. He swapped to take on Vaughan midway through the first half with similar results.
Adrian Clifton saw a strike from distance sail inches over as the Hawks grew in confidence as the first 45 minutes drew to a close.
However the Robins stole the lead deep into first half injury time after some positive play down the right by Wright, who initially tried to cut it back for Jack Munns. It was intercepted, but it arrived into the path of the striker who was felled by Calvin Davies.
There was no protest from the right back, who held his head in his hands as Wright stroked it into the bottom right-hand corner to give his side the narrow advantage at the interval.
Downes doubled the lead five minutes after the restart, heading home at the far post after a wonderful piece of play by Waters on the byline to twist away from his marker and find the Australian with a looping cross.
The home side immediately responded and forced their way back into the game within two minutes of the goal. Dickie was called into a goal line clearance to concede a corner, which Scott Donnelly delivered form the left and Strugnell met with a firm header at the near post to halve the deficit.
From a position of strength, Cheltenham suddenly found themselves with some defending and just about held on, before extending the lead.
Wright grabbed it, his second of the afternoon, heading home after a pinpoint delivery from the right by substitute Jack Barthram who was on for Vaughan. It was a fine finish after missing a golden opportunity from a similar position moments earlier.
And that really should have been that.
But again Havant posted an immediate response, this time the experienced former Doncaster Rovers striker James Hayter scored within two minutes, latching on to a cut back from the left.
Donnelly thumped one a foot wide a moment later before a surging run, again down the right, saw Matt Paterson remarkably square the game with a low drive from inside the angle of the goal.
With seven minutes remaining Amari Morgan-Smith rattled the woodwork with a 20 yarder after a great run down the middle buy fellow replacement James Dayton, making his debut.
Then Pell forced Ryan Young into a save from range.
They threw everything at the Hawks in the dying moments, and Dayton's angled drive cannoned back of the right post but they couldn't force a later winner home and now face a hugely inconvenient replay on Tuesday night with the league match at high-flying Grimsby only three days later.
HAVANT & WATERLOOVILLE (4-4-2): Young; Davies, Strugnell, Dutton, Blanchett; Azeez (Hayter 68), Donnelly, Stock (c), Swallow; Clifton (Mullins 68), Paterson (Searle 90). Subs not used: Subs not used: Morgan, Medway, Monthe, Thomson.
CHELTENHAM TOWN (3-5-2): Phillips; Dickie, Downes (c), Parslow; Vaughan (Barthram 64), Pell, Storer, Munns (Dayton 71), McLennan; Waters (Morgan-Smith 64), Wright. Subs not used: Thomas, Hall, Lovett (Gk), Dayton, Rowe.
REFEREE: C Hicks
ATTENDANCE: 622 (250 from Cheltenham)