Hoskins holds his nerve from penalty spot to earn Cobblers a precious point
Sam Hoskins held his nerve to score a late penalty and keep Cobblers outside the League One relegation zone as they were held to a 1-1 draw by relegation rivals Bristol Rovers on Saturday.
Town started slowly on a freezing day at the PTS and two minutes of madness at the back left them with a lot to do as Luke Leahy pounced on hesitant defending to fire Rovers into an early lead.
The home side were a long way from their best and never really looked like scoring until substitute Alex Jones was tripped with 13 minutes to play, allowing Hoskins to step up and slot home from 12 yards, rescuing a potentially vital point.
Cobblers remain 19th and above the dreaded dotted line, but this result did not do much good for either them or Rovers, particularly given results elsewhere with both AFC Wimbledon and Wigan Athletic racking up big wins.
Jon Brady made two changes, one of which was enforced as a groin injury kept out Peter Kioso with Michael Harriman coming in at right-back. The other saw Ryan Edmondson replace Alan Sheehan.
Edmondson and Danny Rose started up front together as Town lined up 4-2-2-2, but the opening 15 minutes were in keeping with a nervy, tense relegation affair with neither team finding any flow or rhythm.
However, that began to change when the visitors upped the ante and put Town under two minutes of intense pressure.
Only a superb challenge by Harriman prevented Jonah Ayunga breaking the deadlock before Jonathan Mitchell kept out Jack Baldwin's header at the subsequent corner.
But the danger was not over and it would be third time lucky for Rovers who crucially nudged themselves ahead from the next set-piece.
Leahy rose highest to meet Zain Westbrooke's corner and whilst his initial header was saved by Mitchell, the Rovers man reacted quickest to smash home the rebound.
The lacklustre Cobblers had been a distant second best up until then but Rovers' goal jolted some life back into them and a big chance fell their way when Fraser Horsfall's low, hard shot was kept out by the legs of visiting stopper Anssi Jaakkola.
Luke McCormick skied over in another good chance for Rovers, Town were the better team in the last 20 minutes of the opening half as Rose saw a strong penalty shout turned down and Sam Hoskins had a shot blocked.
But there was to be no leveller before half-time and Cobblers struggled for fluency or momentum and gave Jaakkola precious little to worry about in a disjointed second-half.
Alex Jones replaced Edmondson just past the hour-mark and he should have had an assist within five minutes of his arrival, getting away down the right and pulling the ball back for Rose, who completely missed his kick just 10 yards out.
But Jones continued to cause problems and was integral to Town's leveller with 13 minutes left.
He again got behind the Rovers defence and was hauled down by Baldwin for a spot-kick. Hoskins, after missing from 12 yards at Wimbledon only recently, stepped up again and this time made no mistake, drilling down the middle.
Rovers almost had a spectacular response when Ed Upson rattled the crossbar with a 25-yard volley before Town pushed for a winner in stoppage-time, with Jones having another penalty appeal turned down as both sides were forced to settle for a point.
Cobblers: Mitchell, Harriman, Horsfall, Jones, Mills (c), Morris (Marshall 76), McWilliams, Watson, Hoskins, Edmondson (A Jones 63), Rose (Chukwuemeka 71)
Subs not used: Woods, Bolger, Sheehan, Korboa
Rovers: Jaakkola, Williams, Baldwin, Harries, Leahy (c), Upson, Martinez, McCormick, Westbrooke (Hare 71), Ayunga, Hanlan (Daly 83)
Subs not used: Day, Little, Tutonda, Oztumer, Walker
Referee: David Rock