TORQUAY United controlled the whole game and were cruising to victory over a Dartford team struggling at the bottom of the table when one lapse allowed the visitors to snatch a point.
James McQuilkin opened the scoring with a super drive midway through the second half and everything looked comfortable until Jordan Chiedozie pounced on a loose ball to poke home an equaliser that left the Gulls shaking their heads at two points dropped.
United manager Chris Hargreaves made three changes to the side beaten 2-1 at Southport last weekend, starting with Ben Harding replacing the suspended captain Luke Young in centre-midfield.
Levi Ives returned from international duty to take his place at left-back, allowing Krystian Pearce to move inside and partner stand-in skipper Aaron Downes at centre-back, with Ollivier Gueguen dropping down to the bench.
The final change came in attack, where Toby Ajala moved forward to join forces with Louis Briscoe in the absence of injured striker Ryan Bowman. The shuffling around opened up a space on the wing for Kadell Daniel to make his full debut after joining on loan from Charlton.
It was also a very special moment to welcome back Duane Ofori-Acheampong after a family bereavement and the players paid tribute to the big striker’s sister by wearing commemorative t-shirts during the warm-up.
For Dartford boss Tony Burman, the pressure was really on, as a defeat for his team would mean that Alfreton could send the Kent club down by winning at Wrexham.
The visitors responded to their perilous situation with an incisive start, breaking down the right through Ryan Hayes and his whipped cross was nodded narrowly wide by the lurking Chiedozie.
United came back with their own surge down the right, as Ajala picked the pocket of Tom Dallison to make a run for Deren Ibrahim’s goal but the square pass intended for Briscoe was hacked clear by Dartford’s covering skipper Rory McAuley.
Back to Hayes, and a weaving run down the right ended with the Darts’ winger cutting inside for a fizzing low shot with his favoured left foot that flashed narrowly wide of the far post guarded by Yellow custodian Martin Rice.
The Gulls then settled into the game and began to look the stronger outfit, with the combination of Ajala and Briscoe showing early signs of promise, and Ives had immediately given the defence a more balanced look.
Despite the dominance of possession and territory, United’s next big chance came from a corner drifted over by McQuilkin and Downes just failed to get enough purchase on the volley to trouble Ibrahim.
In a rare foray forward, Dartford had a penalty claim for a handball by Ajala after a Hayes cross struck him in the midriff. In truth, it was a welcome moment of interest in a game that had lost all its early impetus.
The major chance of the first period arrived three minutes before the interval, as a low cross from Cameron trundled through to McQuilkin 15 yards from goal, but the midfielder blazed his shot over the bar.
Burman’s team-talk was made a fraction easier by the news that Alfreton were trailing 3-0 but the visitors still knew that only three points would assist in their desperate plight.
The Yellow priority, however, was to bring some cheer to the home crowd and Cameron did well to manufacture room on the right, having swapped wings with Daniel, but the man on loan fired over from a decent position after being picked out by his fellow wide-man.
A bright opening to the second period from Cameron continued with a skipping run inside following neat work in midfield by Harding, but just as the left-foot trigger was being pulled, a shove in the back should have earned United a free-kick just outside the box.
Referee Chris Powell had a different view and Cameron was left in a disappointed heap on the ground, but the Gulls were about to be presented with a glorious opportunity from the next set-piece that was awarded.
Cameron curled over the cross and when Downes nodded the ball back into space for Briscoe, United’s number seven had time to compose himself but instead lashed a left-foot volley over the bar with the goal gaping.
Thankfully, Yellow blushes were instantly spared by McQuilkin rifling home a deserved opener from just outside the box. The build-up was an untidy launch into the area but when the loose ball fell to McQuilkin, his sweetly struck shot gave Ibrahim no chance as it flew like an arrow into the bottom corner.
Burman swiftly shuffled his pack by removing the wide duo of Hayes and Danny Harris for the fresh legs of Andy Pugh and Ebrima Adams, but the new pair were soon defending another dangerous free-kick for the Gulls.
McQuilkin took control of the situation and curled a delicious effort inches past the top corner, with Ibrahim rooted to the spot and gazing upward in hope more than anything else. Tom Bradbrook for Harry Crawford was the final roll of Dartford dice.
Moments later, the visitors were level and it was the first time United’s defence had switched off all afternoon. The goal stemmed from a terrific low shot from 30 yards out by McAuley that Rice did well to keep out.
The problem was the loose ball dropping to Chiedozie and, while Rice produced an even better save to block the first rebound, Dartford’s striker on loan from Cambridge was given a second bite at the cherry, and this time prodded the ball into the empty net.
United immediately introduced Ofori-Acheampong for Daniel but there was no more action, and what should have been a routine three points ended up as a frustrating draw.
United (4-4-2): 1 Martin Rice; 29 Aaron Dawson, 5 Krystian Pearce, 4 Aaron Downes (capt), 25 Levi Ives; 20 Kadell Daniel (24 Duane Ofori-Acheampong 83), 22 James McQuilkin, 6 Ben Harding, 11 Courtney Cameron; 7 Louis Briscoe, 10 Toby Ajala. Substitutes (not used): 15 Liam Prynn, 16 Courtney Richards, 26 Ollivier Gueguen, 31 Daniel Lavercombe (GK).
Booked: Daniel 28, Ofori-Acheampong 90
Dartford (4-4-2): 21 Deren Ibrahim; 19 Callum Driver, 4 Rory McAuley (capt), 18 Tom Dallison, 3 Jamie Richards; 7 Ryan Hayes (10 Andy Pugh 72), 15 Nathan Collier, 16 Peter Sweeney, 11 Danny Harris (27 Ebrima Adams 72); 17 Harry Crawford (23 Tom Bradbrook 80), 33 Jordan Chiedozie. Substitutes (not used): 9 Luke Daley, 13 Tony Kessell (GK).
Referee: Chris Powell
Attendance: 1,754 (160 away).