Chorley’s NPL Premier Division title challenge stalled in a 2-2 draw at relegation-threatened Stocksbridge.
But after a poor first-half display the Magpies showed enough character to pull back a two-goals half-time deficit and come very close to claiming all three points in a frantic finale.
The visitors’ limp first 45 minutes were just too bad to be true.
They were clearly second best to a lively Stocksbridge who, with a stiff breeze behind them, caused all sorts of problems to the Magpies’ usually solid defence, though the home side’s two goals owed much to sloppy defending riddled with uncertainty.
Steels, given far too much room down the right flank, seized the lead after 11 minutes when new-signing Brad Grayson poked the loose ball into the net from close range, after the Magpies had failed to clear a right-wing centre.
Then, on the half-hour, Danny South at the back post connected with another cross from the right, and this time the ball trickled beyond Sam Ashton into the far corner.
Chorley efforts on goal were virtually non-existent and Nathan Joynes was only inches away from adding Steels’ third, his well-timed header just clearing the bar.
The contest could have been virtually over after 56 minutes when Andy Teague was penalised for handball from a free-kick.
But Chorley had a lucky let-off when South blazed the penalty well wide. Four minutes later, the Magpies were back in the game, Paul Jarvis firing a deflected drive into the net.
As Chorley now turned up the heat, keeper Jack Ward saved magnificently from Dale Whitham’s scorching low drive.
But the equaliser was not long delayed. Adam Mather’s 67th-minute corner was met by Keil O’Brien, whose shot flew into the top corner.
After that, it just a matter of whether a now revitalised Chorley could go on and win the match.
They were denied what looked a clear penalty when James Dean was barged over as he raced onto a through-ball.
Teague headed a free-kick over the advancing Ward but also over the bar and the keeper pulled off another superb save from a Mather free-kick.
The introduction of the lively Darren Stephenson gave the Magpies extra penetration and in stoppage time he raced to the by-line and pulled the ball back for Josh Hine to apply the finishing touch.
But the striker’s side-footed first-time shot cleared the bar.
Elsewhere, Southport slipped to 20th place in the Conference Premier table after a 2-1 defeat at high flyers Alfreton Town.
The Sandgrounders started at a disadvantage after arriving late at the ground due to traffic congestion, and being allowed only four minutes warm-up time after spending four hours on the coach.
It was no surprise then when they went 2-0 down in the first half to goals from Michael Wilde (22) and Daniel Meadows (30).
Richard Brodie pulled one back in the 76th minute but although Southport had the better of play in the second half, they could not find the equaliser.
In the NPL Premier Division, AFC Fylde slipped to a 2-1 defeat at home to Ilkeston.
A Matt Baker own goal put the Coasters ahead but Aaron Hooton’s double (80, 88) settled the outcome in the visitors’ favour.
In the NPL First Division North, Dan Wilkins’ goal seven minutes from time gave Clitheroe a 1-0 victory at home to Warrington Town.
Jordan Connerton and Mark Jackson were on target for Lancaster City as they beat Ossett Town 2-1 at Giant Axe.
Ryan Qualter hit the net for the visitors.
But Kendal Town went down 3-1 at Harrogate Railway Athletic. Colin Hunter (23, 26 pen) and Nathan Cartman (24) got first-half goals for the hosts.
Maison McGeechan (84) replied for Kendal.
There was better luck on the road for Burscough.
The Linnets were 2-0 victors at Mossley.
Michael Brown (31) and Luke Robinson (72) got the all-important goals for Burscough.
After their 3-2 Boxing Day victory at Mossley, there was disappointment for Bamber Bridge, whose game at New Mills was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch at Church Road.