The magic of the FA Cup left Worksop Town utterly bewildered on Saturday, as a side two divisions below them almost sent them crashing out.
Bootle, a North West Counties outfit, played Tigers off the park in the second half at Sandy Lane, fighting back from a goal down to earn a 1-1 draw and a replay.
Worryingly for the hosts, just 179 turned up to see the first cup action of the season, and they almost witnessed an upset.
Barely half a minute was on the clock when Tom Denton tested the visiting keeper, Dean Porter getting down well to beat out the striker’s header, Denton blaring the rebound over.
Bootle looked a tidy passing side early on, but failed to put a dangerous final ball on the end of their moves.
Worksop, however, did threaten with two excellent crosses, Leon Mettam’s was tipped over the bar by Porter and then Josh Davies’ corner was headed goalwards by Denton and a defender cleared.
The Merseyside men should have opened the scoring on 15 minutes, Tom Peterson blasting over via a deflection after racing into acres of space in the Worksop box.
A very shaky start by Tigers centre-half Laurence Gaughan came to an end when he limped off on 23 minutes, youngster Chris Salt taking his place.
As was the case in recent outings, Worksop were all at sea from corners, and Peterson had a free header at the back post but failed to hit the target.
Jack Muldoon had Worksop’s best chance when he scrambled through a tackle and found himself in on Porter, but couldn’t get power on his shot and the keeper tipped it round the post.
With five minutes left in the half a corner from the right saw Porter challenge in the air with Kern Miller, and the ball landed on the head of Denton who nodded over with the goal at his mercy.
The big striker didn’t take long to make amends after the break, being in the right place at the right time to head home Josh Davies’ corner on 49 minutes and put Worksop ahead.
Four minutes later Denton’s flick on was hooked over the top by Mettam and Muldoon’s half volley was well saved by Porter.
With Worksop firmly in the ascendancy, another good attack ended in Shane Clarke’s long range shot that went wide.
Bootle began to give a really good account of themselves though, and dangerman Peterson sent a rasping volley just over the top, before substitute James King put his free header well wide.
A set-piece caused an almighty scrum in the home box, Salt heading off the line and the follow up shot rebounding away from goal off a yellow shirt.
Worksop keeper Ben Hallam had to scramble to his left to keep out the impressive Sean Miller’s cross-cum-shot, and James Riley had his head in his hands as he hammered the rebound off the post.
Seconds later Bootle got in down the right flank and Mark Kilroy’s shot was blocked by Miller.
The men in blue were absolutely dominant, and yet another attack resulted in a shot blocked on the line, Neil Prince allowed to walk into the area and get a shot off.
And the equaliser they richly deserved arrived on 87 minutes, Kern Miller handling the ball in the area and Sean Miller stroking home the resulting spot-kick, sending Hallam the wrong way.
It very nearly got much worse for Worksop, Prince’s free-kick smacking off Hallam’s crossbar in the 90th minute.
Down at the other end Reece Twell won a corner and Mettam’s shot at the far post appeared to strike a hand, but the referee waved away the penalty appeals.
The full-time whistle brought appreciative applause from the travelling supporters, who would have felt somewhat aggrieved not to have booked their place in the next round.
Worksop received little in the way of praise from the stands however, staying on the pitch for a post-mortem until long after the sparse crowd had dispersed completely.
A 200-mile round-trip for a Tuesday night replay a fitting punishment for a performance that left an awful lot to be desired.
Worksop: Hallam 4, Lemon 4, Roe 4, Davies 4, Gaughan 3 (Salt 23), Miller 4, Muldoon 4 (Twell 72), Clarke 4, DENTON 5, Mettam 4, Cottingham 4 (Barnett 67). Not used: Mullen, Mackenzie, Pursehouse , Flynn.
Bootle: Porter, McQueen, Kilroy, Carberry (King 57), Coulton, Hay, Peterson (McClaughlin 81), Smart, Riley, Boyle (Prince 72), Miller. Not used: Cheetham, Jones, McClaughin, Prince.
Referee: C. Whitaker. Assistants: J. Key, J. Ham.
Goalscorers: Denton 49; Miller 87.
Yellows: Kilroy 66.