A quickfire James Gray double rescued a point for the Cobblers in a pulsating 2-2 draw at AFC Wimbledon.
Town’s play-off hopes looked to be dead and buried as they fell 2-0 down after an hour at the Cherry Red Records Stadium, the home side having scored twice in three minutes through Sean Rigg and Jake Reeves.
But Gray scored twice, also in the space of just three minutes, to level it up and keep the Cobblers’ promotion hopes alive as they remain four points outside the play-off zone.
The Cobblers made one change to the team that saw off Luton Town at Sixfields last Saturday, with Zander Diamond coming in for the injured Tom Newey.
Diamond partnered Ryan Cresswell in the centre of defence, with Lee Collins switching to left-back. Evan Horwood was named on the bench.
After a quiet start, the Cobblers had the first chance of the game, with Ricky Holmes turning sharply in the box after receiving a pass from John-Joe O’Toole, but his low shot was saved by Ross Worner.
The opening 30 minutes were very scrappy, with both sides struggling to keep possession, and Wimbledon mainly thumping the ball in the direction of Adebato Akinfenwa.
The home side did make a dangerous looking three-on-two break, but it was stopped in its tracks by a cynical foul by Joel Byrom on Craig Tanner in the centre circle, and the Town man was rightly booked.
As the half wore on, the Cobblers did begin to get hold of the ball a bit better, and on 38 minutes James Gray headed weakly at Worner after a floated Byrom cross from the left, but the it was 0-0 at the interval.
Dons started the second half well, and Matt Duke was forced into his first save of the afternoon, parrying away a left-footed strike from Tanner, who had cut in from the right and left fly from 15 yards.
The Cobblers hit back and Gray glanced a header wide, with the Town man claiming he was being held by Jake Goodman. He might have had a point.
Town had looked comfortable in defence, but everything unravelled in a disastrous three-minute spell as Dons scored twice in quick succession.
First, on 57 minutes, a free-kick from the left was nodded down by Akinfenwa into the path of the unmarked Rigg, and he prodded the ball home from eight yards with Duke totally exposed.
Then just three minutes later, some shocking defending saw the home side go 2-0 ahead,
The Dons players had the freedom of the pitch, as first Tanner saw his shot from the edge of the box saved by Duke, but Akinfenwa collected the rebound and rolled the ball into the path of the onrushing Reeves who smashed a low shot into the bottom corner.
Wimbledon were on a roll, and Tanner almost made it 3-0, but his volley hit the crossbar.
The home fans were revelling in their team’s sudden dominance, and the Cobblers looked dead and buried, but that was far from being the case as they claimed a three-minute two-goal salvo of their own to bring the match level.
On 66 minutes Town pulled back the first, Gray finishing with his right foot after a low Holmes cross from the right had been cleverly dummied by Ivan Toney, who had replaced O’Toole.
Holmes saw a low shot well saved by Worner as a revitalised Cobblers laid siege on the Dons goal, and on 69 minutes they were amazingly level, Gray doing superbly to header home Brendan Moloney’s outswinging free-kick from the right flank.
A game that had been pretty desperate for almost an hour, had burst into life with four goals in the space of 12 minutes.
Not surprisngly, things settled down as both teams caught their breath, but both teams were still committed to finding a winner.
The clear-cut opportunities dried up though, with the closest the Cobblers coming to winning it a 20-yard Gray strike which was straight at Worner.
In the end they had to settle for a point, but having been 2-0 behind Town would have settled for that.
AFC Wimbledon: Worner, Fuller, Harrison, Bulman, Oshilaja, Goodman, Rigg, Reeves, Tanner, Akinfenwa, Beere. Subs McDonnell, Francomb, Moore, Azeez, Phillips, Potter, Gallagher.
Northampton Town: Duke, Moloney, Cresswell, Diamond, Collins, Holes, Taylor, Byrom, D’Ath, O’Toole, Gray. Substitutes: Jalal, Horwood, Carter, Hackett, Hornby, Perry, Toney
Goals: 1-0 Rigg (57 mins); 2-0 Reeeves (60 mins); 2-1 Gray (66 mins), 2-2 Gray (69 mins)
Bookings: Byrom (22 mins, foul); Diamond (47 mins, foul); Rigg (48 mins foul); Holmes (77 mins, foul); Reeves (80 mins, foul);
Referee: C Sarginson