Armed police were inside New York Stadium but none of them could match the firepower of Rotherham United striker Danny Ward.
The centre-forward saved the Millers from their 11th straight Championship defeat five minutes from time with a stunning strike against struggling Birmingham City.
There was nothing sinister about officers with guns being at the Good Friday game. Just precautionary, said South Yorkshire’s boys in blue, a community exercise.
They will have applauded the way relegated Rotherham’s leading scorer hit the target when he really needed to, turning and bulleting a fierce, 20-yard, right-footed effort into Blues goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak’s left-hand corner.
It could have been an even better day for new manager Paul Warne and his men, but substitute attacker Jerry Yates misfired in time added on and blazed a golden close-range chance over the bar.
Ward’s 12th goal of the season, which cancelled out Kerim Frei’s 73rd-minute free-kick, was the Millers’ first at home since February 14.
Warne said: “My overriding emotion is contentment because of the run we have been on and because they scored a wonder goal with the free-kick.
“I was looking at the clock and thinking: ‘Please don’t fold.’ It’s a difficult job when things are going quite right and the players could have easily downed tools.
“Although we could have taken all three points, I am still taking pride for the second-half performance. They had a right go.
“I am edged with a bit of disappointment because of the chance we had at the end, but I am pretty buoyant.”
There were contrasting managers in each dugout.
Rotherham had Warne, a non-league journeyman who became a professional journeyman with clubs like Wigan, the Millers Oldham and Yeovil.
Birmingham boasted Gianfranco Zola, a product of Napoli and Parma, a former Italian international and an attacker so skilful he was once voted Chelsea’s best ever player.
But Warne proved a match for his more illustrious counterpart and the Millers were the only team who were going to win it towards the end.
The Miller boss applauded the New York fans at the final whistle. Birmingham’s massed away following called for their man to be sacked and their players clashed with each other on the pitch.
The first half was a non-event, with Millers goalkeeper Richard O’Donnell’s excellent save from Craig Gardner’s 22-yard free-kick in the 24th minute the only save of note.
Carlton Morris fired over the bar from distance for Rotherham seven minutes later and, four minutes before the break, the striker couldn’t get enough power on a header, which was easily gathered by Blues keeper Tomasz Kuszczak.
Kuszczak was given far more trouble nine minutes after the break by Will Vaulks’ vicious curling effort from an angle on the left which the Blue man did well to beat away.
On the hour mark, Ryan Shotton produced a goalsaving clearance as Morris shaped to convert Jon Taylor’s cross for the Millers and three minutes later Danny Ward just failed to connect with another Taylor right-flank supply.
But it was the visitors who broke the deadlock when substitute Kerim Frei scored from more than 20 yards out. Birmingham had been awarded a run of free-kicks in scoring positions and Warne’s men eventually paid the price.
However, the home side were level in the 85th minute as Ward produced his moment of magic, only for Yates to pass up on the opportunity to give Rotherham their first win since January.
“It feels pretty amazing,” Warne added. “It was just a good feeling. “If Jerry had scored, we would have celebrated like we’d have been promoted. We haven’t scored at home for a while. It was nice to get at least one point.
“The players are pretty pleased with themselves. They are proud of how they performed. On another day, we might have taken another two points. A draw means a lot to us because we have had 10 defeats on the spin.”
Ward took the prize for best shot. As the police left, shooting practice of a different kind for Yates.
Rotherham United (4-4-2): O’Donnell; Fisher (Yates 61), Ajayi, Wood, Mattock; Taylor, Smallwood, Vaulks, Newell (Adeyemi H-T); Morris (Clarke-Harris 77), Ward. Subs not used: Bilboe, Belaid, Bray, Purrington. Birmingham City (5-3-2): Kuszczak; Nsue, Bielik, Shotton, Robinson (Frei 55), Grounds; Tesche (Maghoma 90), Gardner (Kieftenbeld 79), Davis; Jutkiewicz, Adams. Subs not used: Legzdins, Gleeson, Keita, Sinclair. Goals: Frei 73 (Birmingham); Ward 85 (Rotherham). Referee: James Linington (Newport). Attendance: 10,160 (2,576).