Hoskins' free-kick cancelled out as Cobblers sign off with hard-earned point against Sunderland
Two late goals sees the spoils shared in the north east
Cobblers both scored and conceded late on as they signed off their disappointing campaign with a 1-1 draw at Sunderland on Sunday.
The game was severely short on quality and had all the hallmarks of an end-of-season affair, at least until the final six minutes when things finally came to life.
Sam Hoskins appeared to have won it for Town when his free-kick deflected into the net, but Carl Winchester levelled within three minutes for a share of the spoils.
The full-time whistle brought the curtain down on an underwhelming season for the Cobblers, who finished 22nd in Sky Bet League One.
Sunday's game was at least significant for the debut of 18-year-old academy midfielder Liam Cross, who played the final 12 minutes at the Stadium of Light.
Hoskins started at right-back and Lloyd Jones captained the team as defenders Peter Kioso and Joseph Mills both missed out with injury.
Jordan Jones brought a fairly routine stop from Jonathan Mitchell inside two minutes but with Cobblers already relegated and Sunderland not at full tilt ahead of their play-off campaign, the first-half was hardly full of action.
The Black Cats saw most of the ball whilst Town were not without their moments as Mickel Miller and Mark Marshall threatened to get in behind the home defence on more than one occasion.
Max Power dragged wide for Sunderland in first-half stoppage-time but between them the two teams combined for just a solitary shot on target before the break.
Things improved marginally in the second-half and three minutes in Sunderland created the game's best chance up to that point, Lynden Gooch latching onto Charlie Wyke's flick-on but Mitchell was out smartly to smother.
Aidan McGeady's introduction had livened up the home side and Jones fired into the side-netting, whilst at the other end, Bryn Morris drove a free-kick into the wall and Ryan Watson's glancing header dropped wide.
But with Sunderland then making a triple change, the quality of the game deteriorated at a significant speed and the goalmouth action dried up again.
The hosts pushed for a winner in the closing stages and they finally carved out a clear-cut opportunity with 14 minutes to play, only for Jones to slice horribly over the crossbar.
Chris Maguire also fired straight at Mitchell, but at long last the game came to life with a flurry of late action.
Cobblers looked to have won it with six minutes to play when Hoskins' free-kick deflected off the wall and wrong-footed Lee Burge, only for Winchester to equalise within three minutes as he reacted quickest after Jones' effort had hit both posts.
Sunderland went in search of a winner in what time remained but Cobblers held out to end their campaign with 45 points, three short of safety.
Sunderland: Burge, McLaughlin (Maguire 52), Wright (Winchester 66), Power (c), O'Nien, Scowen (Leadbitter 66), Diamond (McGeady 45), Jones, Hume, Gooch, Wyke (O'Brien 66)
Subs not used: Matthews, McFadzean
Cobblers: Mitchell, Hoskins, Horsfall, L Jones (c), Harriman, McWilliams, Morris, Watson (Roberts 86), Marshall (Cross 79), Miller (Chukwuemeka 76), Rose (Ashley-Seal 86)
Subs not used: Woods, Bolger, A Jones
Referee: Samuel Barrott