AS snooker’s UK Championship approached its denouement at the nearby Barbican, Jon Challinor arrived right on cue to keep York City in this season’s FA Trophy.
Deep into the third of four stoppage-time minutes, Challinor survived offside appeals, as well as the suspicion of a foul on Solihull Moors goalkeeper Jasbir Singh, to force a late replay.
As a consequence, the West Midlanders left Bootham Crescent furious at the end of an inglorious afternoon for the match officials.
Both teams had reason to feel aggrieved at different stages of the game, however, with City having been earlier denied a blatant penalty that should have also seen Stuart Pierpoint sent off for handling Matty Blair’s goalbound effort.
It was the biggest of several oversights by referee Anthony Backhouse although his assistants were worse, if anything, with an apparent disinterest in providing the Carlisle man in the middle with the benefit of two extra pairs of eyes.
York-based fourth official Peter Hartley proved just as hapless, holding up the electronic board upside down to signal Daniel Parslow’s 80th-minute introduction as an emergency striker.
But the quartet’s incompetence could not be held as an excuse for City’s sub-standard display.
Sloppy from the start, the Minstermen fell behind in the third minute and, despite hitting straight back through Blair, gave Solihull a second chance to defend a lead when falling behind again on the stroke of half-time.
The Moors did so stubbornly, working hard to defend in numbers whenever the hosts were in possession.
Mills’ men did not manage a single second-half shot until the 77th minute after Junior English had rattled Michael Ingham’s left-hand post at the other end.
But Challinor earned City a scarcely-deserved draw when he pounced at the death.
It was a welcome finale to the game for Challinor, who had been given a torrid time defensively by former £3 million man Lee Morris.
Drifting in from the left flank, Morris’ low cross had earlier provided Jordan Fitzpatrick with a three-yard tap in at the far post to open the scoring with less than three minutes on the clock.
City responded with a Paddy McLaughlin free-kick that was tipped over the bar by Singh before the Northern Ireland under-21 international’s sixth-minute pass led to the game’s first equaliser.
McLaughlin released Danny Pilkington through the right channel and his cross from the byline found Andre Boucaud and Blair both lurking at the far post with the latter finding the net from a downward header inside the visitors’ six-yard box.
On 22 minutes, Pilkington should have added his name to the scoresheet but, following another McLaughlin through ball, he sidefooted wide from 15 yards after Singh had raced out of goal to meet him.
Jamal Fyfield’s thumping 12-yard volley then produced a fine save by Singh low to his left after James Meredith’s first-time centre from a Boucaud cross.
Former Aston Villa striker Richard Walker, though, squandered a glorious opportunity for Solihull moments later, lifting his shot over Ingham’s crossbar from seven yards after another positive run into the penalty box by Morris.
Walker made amends on 40 minutes when Phil Midworth’s diagonal ball from the right flank saw David McGurk step up in an attempt to play the 34-year-old frontman offside.
He only resulted in getting the wrong side of Walker, however, with the burly striker turning smartly before firing a 15-yard shot in off Ingham’s right-hand post.
City made an uninspiring start to the second half but might have had a penalty just past the hour when Scott Kerr appeared to be tripped by Pierpoint.
Shortly afterwards, English burst clear on goal at the other end but struck the base of a hesitant Ingham’s left-hand upright.
On 73 minutes, Walker then missed the target from seven yards after nobody had followed his run to meet Gavin Hurren’s inswinging free-kick from the left.
Pierpoint, though, must still be wondering how he escaped punishment after throwing up a hand, while laid on the goal line, to deny Blair a second goal moments later.
With Parslow’s arrival seeing City switch to three at the back and four up front, the hosts went direct in their search for an equaliser.
Almost immediately, Parslow headed wide from a Challinor cross before a subdued Jason Walker curled over a 25-yard free-kick.
Walker also headed wide after Parslow had helped on a Blair centre before Ingham was sent forward to add his weight to the aerial onslaught.
The City ’keeper made his presence felt when he met McLaughlin’s corner with Singh then making an instinctive save to push over Walker’s close-range header.
From the resulting flag kick, the ball was cleared only as far as last man Adriano Moké 50 yards from goal and, when he lofted the ball back into the box, Challinor slid into Singh.
When the ball broke loose, the City right-back then kicked into an empty net and, despite most in the crowd expecting a raised flag or a blown whistle, the goal was allowed to stand much to the dismay of the visitors.
It meant the Minstermen live to fight another day following an afternoon in which a third of the Blue Square Bet Premier’s teams exited the competition, including top-four rivals Wrexham, Fleetwood and Southport.
York City 2 (Blair 6; Challinor 90+3), Solihull Moors 2 (Fitzpatrick 3; R Walker 40)
York City: Michael Ingham 6, Jon Challinor 5, David McGurk 5, Jamal Fyfield 7, James Meredith 5, Scott Kerr 5, Andre Boucaud 5, Paddy McLaughlin 6, Matty Blair 6, Jason Walker 5, Danny Pilkington 5.
Subs: Moses Ashikodi 5 (for Boucaud, 39), Adriano Moké 6 (for Pilkington, 63), Daniel Parslow (for Meredith, 80).
Not used: Smith, Potts.
Key: 10 – Faultless; 9 – Outstanding; 8 – Excellent; 7 – Good; 6 – Average; 5 – Below par; 4 – Poor; 3 – Dud; 2 – Hopeless; 1 – Retire.
City’s star man: Fyfield – tried to force City forward from the back with more purpose than some of those in front of him.
Solihull: Jasbir Singh, Phil Midworth, Danny Spencer, Stuart Pierpoint, Dominic Langdon (JJ Melligan, 15, Andre Francis, 86), Jordan Fitzpatrick, Gavin Hurren, Junior English, Michael Blackwood, Lee Morris, Richard Walker (Simon Johnson, 86).
Subs not used: Karl Broadhurst, John Millar.
Booked: Kerr 72, Spencer 90, Johnson 90.
Shots on target: City 6, Moors 4.
Shots off target: City 5, Moors 5.
Corners: City 10, Moors 3.
Fouls conceded: City 10, Moors 11.
Offsides: City 1, Moors 2.
Referee: Anthony Backhouse (Carlisle). Rating: too many glaring errors, but given little help by assistants.
Attendance: 1,116 (36 away fans).
Save of the match: Singh’s stop from Fyfield’s volley displayed impressive reflexes.
Miss of the match: Walker’s shot over the bar just edges it.