It was Roy of the Rovers stuff from inspired captain Neil McLean to drag his team from the jaws of defeat to a replay at Galabank on Saturday as determined Inverurie Locos pushed the Division 2 leaders all the way for a Scottish Cup fourth round place.
The winners will be at home to Hamilton Accies.
Underdogs they may have been for this one, but Locos did not let an early setback upset them.
With just three minutes played. Peter Weatherson opened the scoring as slack defending from a low pass into the box allowed the player-coach the space to fire his shot into the top corner from 10 yards.
It could have been two minutes later when a fast run down the left flank by Scott McColm provided enough space for the winger to flash a speculative effort across the face of goal.
The home side tried to get a foothold into the cup tie, and created their first chance when John Maitland skimmed the ball low through the crowded six yard box which somehow avoided any touches to send it goalwards.
The tempo of the game suited Locos’ counter-attacking style as they continued to threaten the Annan defence. A warning shot was fired on the half-hour as Maitland moved in from the flank to play the ball across the edge of the box to McLean, whose shot had a slight deflection, allowing an easy save from keeper Hart.
This pressure paid off as the game was tied the game with half-time approaching. Andy Hunter’s run down the left flank created enough confusion in the Annan box to allow the winger to roll the ball towards the penalty spot for the in-coming McLean to convert the effort with a powerful strike into the top corner.
Into the second half and the pressure was piled on the Annan defence until they once again cracked. Andy Hunter’s persistence with the ball at his feet inside the box provided him with the chance to wrong foot the keeper and poke the ball into the far corner.
Now the shock was firmly in the making with the Red and Blacks on top. And amazingly it was another previous round scorer netting, the former Clach attacking midfielder Martin Laing.
Similar to Hunter’s earlier goal, Laing did well to hold off the Annan defence, keeping the ball at his feet as he moved into the box, before chipping his shot over Hart and in off the far post.
But Annan shocked the home side with two quick-fire goals. The first came less than two minutes after Laing’s as Robin Omar’s whipped corner found the rising Steven Swinglehurst to drive his header past Mathieson.
The second came three minutes later, as Stuart McColm found himself inside the Locos box, dragged the ball past a defender then curled home a low shot.
It was anybody’s tie, Steven Jeffrey and McLean both coming close as the final whistle approached.
With thoughts now fully focused on a replay, Annan looked to have delivered a killer blow as they took the lead in the 89th minute through a Weatherson scrambled effort. Coming from deep inside the box, a tired Inverurie defence failed to close down the striker, allowing him the space to pick his target and convert.
Needing a miracle, Inverurie turned to skipper McLean, who took on the responsibilities from the kick-off to take the ball down field.
Incredibly, his determined run down the left flank provided the opportunity to cross the ball into the box, but with great skill and bit of luck on his side, the cross became a perfectly placed shot into the far top corner, levelling the tie once again with the last kick of the game.
Inverurie Locos: Mathieson, Jeffrey, Forsyth, Begg (Souter 77), Adams, Broadhurst, Laing, McLean, Hunter (McCabe 74), Mitchell, Maitland. Substitutes: McCaffrey, Young, Leyden.
Annan Athletic: Hart, Black (Sloan 61), Swinglehurst, McNiff, Watson, Finnie, Omar, Flynn, Weatherson, Watson (McDonald 61), McColm. Substitutes: Currie, McStay, Gillfinnan, Park.
Referee: S Reid