Atdhe Nuhiu stepped up off the bench to earn Sheffield Wednesday a scarcely deserved point at Ipswich Town.
Nuhiu rose highest to head in Adam Reach’s cross deep into added time to bag his first Owls goal since February 2016 and extend the team’s unbeaten run to five matches.
His dramatic late equaliser, however, was a get-out-of-jail-free card for Wednesday and shouldn’t paper over the cracks. Their performance left a lot to be desired.
Yes, they showed character and dug deep to fight back after twice going behind. But the Owls were awful for long periods.
After a woeful first half which was high on industry but low on quality, the Tractor Boys stepped things up in the second period and Joe Garner and Martyn Waghorn twice put them ahead.
Gary Hooper’s 64th minute penalty - yes, you did read that correctly - briefly restored parity and Nuhiu’s dramatic header then rescued them a draw.
Carlos Carvalhal fielded an unchanged starting line-up in the 50th meeting between the two clubs.
And Glenn Loovens was lucky to avoid picking up a card of any description in the fourth minute after a late high challenge near the half-way line on David McGoldrick. Referee Keith Stroud gave Loovens a warning but his decision to not at least caution the Dutch defender incensed the crowd and Ipswich boss Mick McCarthy.
It was a tight, cagey contest in the early stages.
The Tractor Boys created the first meaningful opportunity, with top-scorer Martyn Waghorn showing good vision to release McGoldrick before the former Owls loanee drilled his shot high over the bar.
Out of nothing, Wednesday should have taken the lead in the 13th minute when Morgan Fox whipped in a dangerous inswinging cross which Ipswich old boy Jordan Rhodes glanced narrowly wide. It is a chance you would have usually backed Rhodes to convert. The Owls had the bulk of the possession but looked devoid of ideas in the final third.
Callum Connolly forced Keiren Westwood into action, seeing his fierce right foot drive from long range pushed away by the Republic of Ireland international.
Soon after, Bersant Cellina, on loan from Manchester City, cut in off the left and saw his low drive easily gathered by Keiren Westwood.
The hosts continued to threaten and lone striker Joe Garner floated in a fine cross towards the back post which found Cellina but Westwood was equal to his diving header.
After soaking up a spell of Ipswich pressure, Wednesday hit back and Ross Wallace cut in from the right and curled a shot well off target. Just after the half hour mark, the Scot lifted a 25 yard free kick as the Owls briefly asked a few questions of the Ipswich defence.
It was all too ponderous and predictable from the visitors, who failed to register a single shot on target in a drab, turgid first half. Their passing was sloppy and they played a lot of the time without pace or tempo.
Had the Tractor Boys’ finishing been better, Carvalhal’s side could have found themselves behind at the interval. Jack Hunt’s poor clearance fell invitingly into the path of Waghorn but the former Rangers forward’s weak shot was well held by Westwood.
Ipswich sought a spark and made a change at half-time, throwing on Freddie Sears for McGoldrick, who suffered a gash on his thigh from the Loovens tackle.
Sears nearly made an instant impact, making a clever run in behind the Owls’ back four and teeing up Waghorn, whose effort took a deflection off Fox and rippled the side-netting.
From the resulting corner, the Tractor Boys took the lead. Ex-Wednesday loanee Jordan Spence flicked on Cellina’s set piece at the near post and Garner had the simplest of tasks in tapping home from close range. Wednesday fell asleep defensively and paid the ultimate price.
It took a great block by Adam Webster to prevent Rhodes from testing the reflexes of Bartosz Bialkowski as the Owls looked for an immediate response.
The travelling fans grew frustrated at Wednesday’s inadequacies at the business end of the pitch, chanting ‘attack, attack, attack.’
It was no surprise Carvalhal freshened up his attacking options after such a lacklustre display, throwing on Steven Fletcher and Kieran Lee.
Cole Skuse became the first player to be cautioned after cynically hauling down Bannan, and Ipswich then came close to doubling their advantage when Sears latched on to Waghorn’s raking pass. Sears rounded Westwood but the angle was always against him and Westwood recovered well to block his attempt.
Against the run of play, Wednesday equalised after being awarded their first penalty in 34 matches. Spence was adjudged to have handled Hunt’s cross and Hooper lashed in from 12 yards to claim his ninth goal of the season.
Hooper’s leveller visibly lifted the Owls and Adam Reach’s fierce shot flew agonisingly wide.
But Ipswich regained the lead in the 70th minute, Waghorn heading in to the top corner after a good delivery by substitute Emyr Huws. It was Waghorn’s ninth goal in 12 league starts.
Rhodes had a late penalty appeal waved away and Fletcher headed over Lee’s hanging cross before Nuhiu’s dramatic intervention.
Ipswich: Bialkowski; Spence, Chambers, Webster, Kenlock; Skuse, Connolly; McGoldrick (Sears HT), Waghorn, Celina (Huws 67); Garner. Substitutes: Gerken, Iorfa, Ward, Nydam, Bru.
Owls: Westwood; Hunt, Lees, Loovens, Fox (Fletcher 60); Wallace (Lee 62), Butterfield, Bannan, Reach; Hooper, Rhodes (Nuhiu 87). Substitutes: Wildsmith, Palmer, van Aken, Jones.
Attendance: 15,702 (1,158)
Referee: Keith Stroud (Hampshire)