AN EQUALISER by Gary Madine with virtually the last kick of the game salvaged a point for Wednesday after they were on the brink of a shock home defeat.
The Owls had been given a lesson in finishing by strugglers Walsall who led 2-1 with sweet strikes by Jon Macken and Jamie Paterson and despite an equaliser by Ryan Lowe it looked as if the Sadlers were going to complete a league double against the Owls.
But in the fifth minute of stoppage time a shot by Chris Lines was saved and Madine slotted home the rebound at the second attempt.
It was the least Wednesday deserved, for in a one-sided first half they created four chances for Lowe and Michail Antonio hit the woodwork twice.
Dave Jones picked the same side for the fourth game in a row but the manager sprang a surprise by handing Jermaine Johnson a comeback on the bench. The Owls wasted no time: a fifth-minute free-kick from the left by Chris Lines was cleared out to Lowe, who sent a half-volley over the bar from 12 yards instead of bagging his third goal in four games.
Lowe had another opportunity eight minutes after that: Lines cleverly changes the direction of play, then Mike Jones tricked his marker and crossed from the left; Rob Jones headed back at the far post, and Lowe volleyed over the top from six yards.
The captain might have done better too when his header from the resulting corner by Lines sailed too high.
Walsall escaped again in the 17th minute: Antonio ran at them through the middle, let fly from almost 25 yards and saw his rising drive clip the top of the bar. By the time a further six minutes of Owls dominance had ticked by, the striker could even have had a hat-trick.
His third opening was created by terrific persistence from Antonio down the right followed by an accurate low ball; Lowe was unable to make proper contact and clipped his effort across the penalty area.
Soon afterwards Antonio took matters into his own hands after being found by a lovely diagonal ball from Lines. The winger hared down the inside-right channel and struck a powerful shot from 25 yards; it was not the easiest of angles but David Grof was beaten and the ball hit the woodwork.
It had been almost all one-way traffic until the Owls suffered a 35th-minute scare: a ball aimed towards their box was deflected over their back four and found Alex Nicholls lurking near the far post but he failed to get a decisive touch.
Then it was back to a familiar theme with Wednesday coming forward and Lowe receiving another, more difficult chance; Gary Madine touched a pass to his strike partner and though the latter managed a strike at goal a defender’s fine block took the sting out of it.
Just before half time a 28-yard free-kick by Lines dipped just too late, an effort by Mike Jones was cleared off the line, and still Wednesday still could not take the lead they deserved.
News of United’s 4-0 lead at Notts County was sobering news for the Wednesday fans.
But there was greater cause for gloom when their team fell behind against the run of play in the 58th minute.
Midfield man Florent Cuvelier outpaced Lewis Buxton and crossed for Macken to volley into the roof of the net. The antidote was two minutes in coming. Walsall failed to clear a right-side corner by Lines, the ball ran to Lowe at the far post and he hooked it home with his right foot.
Johnson’s introduction brought another cheer from home fans but they were angered when Grof - who was having a night to forget - seemed to upend Madine in the box and the foul was given the other way.
Extra ambition from the visitors was carried one stage further when they scored in the 72nd minute.
Paterson cleverly made space for himself on the right side of the area then lashed the ball in.
Grof redeemed himself with saves from Johnson, Antonio, and Rob Jones,
Then came that equaliser - but Wednesday lost ground in the promotion chase.
OWLS: Bywater 7, Buxton 7, Batth 7, R Jones 7, Bennett 7, Antonio 8, Semedo 7, Lines 8, M Jones 6 (J Johnson 63, 7), Lowe 6 (O’Grady 81), Madine 6. Unused subs: Jameson, Prutton, Llera.
WALSALL: Grof 6, Beevers 6, Butler 7, Smith 7, Sadler 6, Paterson 7 (Westlake 90+4), Cuvelier 7, Mantom 6, Hurst 6, Macken 7 (Bowerman 90+1), Nicholls 6. Unused subs: Walker, Lancashire, Ladesma.
Goals: Macken 58, Lowe 60 (for Walsall); Lowe 60. Madine 90+5 (for Wednesday).
Bookings: Semedo 90+3 (for Wednesday).