HARTLEPOOL United surrendered a winning position for the sixth time this season as Doncaster Rovers stole a late point at Victoria Park.
Neale Cooper's men were headed for a first win in eight attempts in League One after Neil Austin had converted a second-half penalty.
But Rovers centre-back Rob Jones forced home an 88th-minute header to earn the visitors a share of the spoils and keep Pools four points from safety.
Cooper had made three changes for the visit of Dean Saunders' side with recalls for Steve Howard, Paul Murray and Tony Sweeney, Ritchie Humphreys, Simon Walton and Middlesbrough loanee Charlie Wyke dropping to the bench.
But within two minutes Pools were on the back foot and Billy Paynter, scuffing into the turf from 12 yards, came within a yard of opening the scoring when his effort bounced wide.
A bloodied Howard had been forced to change his shirt inside five minutes but that did not hinder the target man and he went close soon after, steering a header from Jack Baldwin's centre onto the roof of Gary Woods' goal.
Shelton Martis should have done better at the other end when David Cotterill landed an out-swinging corner on his brow.
But, with the entirety of the target to aim at, the centre-back somehow crashed his header into the roof of the stand.
Evan Horwood's afternoon was cut short on 35 minutes when he hobbled from the action with an ankle injury.
And, within 60 seconds of his arrival, substitute James Poole had cracked the base of the post with an instinctive left-foot swipe from distance.
The contest remained goalless going into the second half and only the out-stretched boot of Baldwin denied James Harper an opener on 50 minutes with his volley headed for the bottom corner.
Poole looked the best bet for a goal from a home perspective and only the fingertips of a backpedalling Woods prevented his measured curler from nestling in the side netting.
From the resulting corner, delivered by Jon Franks, Howard headed straight into the arms of Woods from 10 yards.
Wyke, a second-half introduction, then curled to within a foot of a breakthrough goal on 65 minutes when he dropped a shoulder inside the area to fashion room for a shot.
But Pools eventually did seize the lead as the clock entered the final 20 minutes.
Howard was man-handled by a pair of Rovers defenders as he sought to get on the end of Darren Holden's long throw and referee Graham Scott pointed to the spot.
Up stepped Austin and, like he had done in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy shootout against Bradford City four days earlier, tucked unnervingly into the bottom corner.
Still, though, a threat remained at the other end and Harper shaved the upright when he steamed on to a loose ball on the edge of the area on 80 minutes.
Franks had a chance to make the points safe when sprung clear by Ritchie Humphreys but the winger stalled and was robbed by the recovering Rob Jones.
It was end-to-end stuff and Cotterill tested the palms of Flinders when he smashed on target from 25 yards.
And the midfielder turned provider for Jones' last-ditch leveller when his free-kick was turned in by the forehead of the defender.