Last-gasp own goal denies Cobblers as they are held at home by Crawley Town
An own goal from Joe Martin deep into stoppage-time denied Cobblers a third straight league win as Crawley Town came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at the PTS on Saturday.
Chris Lines' first goal for the club, coming from the penalty spot, steered Town into an early lead and they looked in cruise control when Shaun McWilliams fizzed home with 25 minutes to go.
Crawley have not failed to score in any league game this season though and they showed why with a late rally as Ashley Nathaniel-George curled one goal back before a desperate late scramble, five minutes into stoppage-time, rescued a dramatic point.
Town would have been eighth and a point off the play-offs with victory but instead they drop to 12th in Sky Bet League Two, three points off the top seven.
Naming an unchanged side for the third game running, Cobblers began with the confidence and purpose of a team who have won four of their last six matches as they enjoyed plenty of early pressure.
That said, clear-cut chances were hard to come by despite an open start to the game as Andy Williams dragged wide for Town, while Crawley's Reece Greco-Cox drew David Cornell into a comfortable stop at his near post.
Town should have been ahead on 13 minutes when a cleverly-worked free-kick routine forced desperate blocks out of the Crawley defence, denying both Charlie Goode and Joe Martin.
However, the visitors failed to clear their lines and a goalmouth scramble ensued before Goode was adjudged to have been fouled by referee Andy Haines, who pointed to the spot. Lines made no mistake from 12 yards, sending Glenn Morris the wrong way.
The goal was just reward for a strong start by Town, but Crawley, who felt a sense of injustice after the penalty decision, had not come to the PTS to sit back and they caused their own issues as an attacking force, even more so since going behind.
They were only denied an equaliser Jordan Turnbull's excellent last-ditch tackle on Mason Bloomfield before the ball rebounded to Bez Lubala and Goode had to race back and clear off the line.
Sam Hoskins skied over the stand, let alone the crossbar, at the end of one of Town's counter-attacks before Cornell kept out Greco-Cox for a second time with an smart low save.
Hoskins shot wide with the last act of the first-half, and Town had a great opportunity to double their lead just moments after the restart but, after Michael Harriman had been fouled, Lines' second spot-kick of the day was easily saved by Morris.
Lubala's shot rippled the side-netting from distance before he repeated the trick a few minutes later, again stepping inside and sending an effort just wide of the far post.
But Crawley's task became that much harder on 65 minutes when Town had a second - and it came courtesy of a first ever goal for McWilliams, who met Hoskins' cross with a rasping finish.
The visitors were back in the game just five minutes later, however, as Nathaniel-George, only just on moments earlier, had the beating of Harriman and lasered a shot into the bottom corner from 20 yards.
Hoskins and Williams were both close to scoring Town's third but Crawley piled forward in the final minutes and left it right until the very end to snatch a point thanks to an agonising late scramble, the ball creeping into the net off the unfortunate Martin.
Cobblers: Cornell, Harriman, Goode, Wharton, Martin, Turnbull, Lines (Warburton 88), McWilliams, Adams (Oliver 60), Hoskins, Williams (Kaja 74)
Subs not used: Fisher, J Williams, Pollock, Waters
Crawley: Morris, Young (c) (Sesay 54), Doherty, Dallison, Greco-Cox, Ferguson (Bulman 45), Francomb, Bloomfield, Tunnicliffe, Lubala (Nathaniel-George 67), Palmer
Subs not used: Allarakhia, Galach, Luyambula
Referee: Andy Haines
Crawley fans: 233