Carlos Mendes Gomes came off the bench to score his first League goal for Wanderers as the Whites hit back with 10 men on a dramatic afternoon at the Sixfields Stadium, writes Pete Oliver.
After conceding an early goal, Wanderers then had to play with a man down for more than an hour following the disputed dismissal of George Thomason.
They also had to do it throughout the second half without manager Ian Evatt in the dugout after he was also dismissed at the break.
But with the odds stacked against them, the Whites dug deep and showed all their character and fighting spirit to equalise through Mendes Gomes in the 74th-minute and collect a crucial point in the promotion race.
Mendes Gomes bravely headed home to make sure Wanderers would avoid only a second league loss since mid-December and with back-to-back home games to come they remain just a point behind second-placed Derby with their challenge still on track.
Following the mid-week wash-out at Cambridge, Wanderers made four changes to their starting line-up with first league starts for Calvin Ramsay and goalkeeper Joel Coleman.
Coleman’s opportunity followed the wrist injury to Nathan Baxter, which ended his ever-present league run since joining the Whites last summer.
It was Coleman’s first league appearance in almost exactly two years and he was unfortunate to be picking the ball out of the net with less than two minutes gone.
Having conceded a needless free-kick, Wanderers saw Coleman make an excellent finger-tip save to push Dominic Gape’s set-piece against the woodwork but when the ball wasn’t cleared, Kieron Bowie pounced to drill home an effort from the corner of the six-yard box.
Wanderers almost replied straight away when Thomason got away to pull the ball back towards Victor Adeboyejo who was just unable to get a touch.
And Dion Charles went closer still to an equaliser after 15 frantic minutes when he spun away from Jordan Willis from Caleb Taylor’s fine pass and burst clear before dragging a shot just past the far post.
Town carried a threat of their own, however, and a difficult task got even harder when Thomason was sent off after almost half an hour, referee Jeremy Simpson deciding his challenge on Aaron McGowan was worthy of a straight red card.
Wanderers were incensed by the decision and the reaction of McGowan but had to re-group and showed signs before the break that they could get back into the game a man light as Zac Ashworth got into a number of promising positions as he tried to create a leveller.
The Whites were never completely convincing, though, and it took an excellent save from Coleman to keep them just one goal adrift as a mis-placed Kyle Dempsey pass gave Will Hondermarck a clear sight of goal two minutes before half-time.
Evatt was then unable to take his place in the technical area at the start of the second half after receiving his red card, while Wanderers – under the guidance of assistant manager Peter Atherton – also made two substitutions as Aaron Collins and Mendes Gomes were sent on.
And the re-shaped Whites made an electric start as they tried to repair the damage and find a way past Town’s substitute goalkeeper Louie Moulden – brother of Wanderers’ kitman Ted.
The Cobblers were hanging on for spells but Wanderers couldn’t make their pressure pay in front of another packed away end as it looked as though the hosts might be able to ride it out.
But that was only until Eoin Toal almost got Wanderers level with a spectacular effort and that did lead to an equaliser with just under 20 minutes to go.
From almost 30 yards, Toal let fly with a dipping volley which Moulden touched over the bar at full stretch and from Sheehan’s corner Mendes Gomes reacted superbly to an initial clearance to head the ball back goalwards and in off the inside of a post.
Suddenly Wanderers sensed a possible winner and they almost got it from another corner with five minutes to go.
Ashworth’s deep delivery again caused mayhem in the Northampton penalty area and twice Aaron Collins saw efforts blocked on the line by Moulden before, Mendes Gomes and Gethin Jones also saw a volley hit a Town defender among a flurry of shots as Wanderers went for all three points.
In a frenetic finale, Coleman then had to save from Ben Fox at the other end as Northampton also looked for a big finish.
But with the Whites standing firm to make sure they wouldn’t leave empty-handed, their show of spirit was enough to put another potentially important point on the board.
Wanderers: Coleman; Jones, Taylor (Iredale 76), Toal; Sheehan (Morley 84); Ramsay (Mendes Gomes HT), Dempsey, Thomason, Ashworth; Charles (Jerome 76), Adeboyejo (Collins HT). Substitutes: Bodvarsson, Maghoma.
Booked: Adeboyejo, Jerome, Sheehan, Jones.
Sent off: Thomason
Northampton Town: Burge (Moulden HT); McGowan (Lintott 35), Willis, Guthrie, Brough; Leonard, Gape (Fox 63), Hondermarck (Springett 76); Pinnock, Bowie, Appere (Simpson 76). Substitutes: Monthe, Haynes.
Referee: Jeremy Simpson
Attendance: 7,593 (1,370 away)