A 28,124 sell-out crowd witnessed a phenomenal finale as Billy Davies’ magnificent run continued with a 2-2 draw against Brighton at The City Ground this afternoon.
Lewis McGugan came off the bench to score for the fourth game in a row to cancel out Leonardo Ulloa’s opener, but The Seagulls looked to have it all wrapped up when Will Buckley fired them back into the lead with five minutes to go.
But a clanger from ‘keeper Casper Ankergren handed Henri Lansbury a dramatic late equaliser.
Davies made one change to the side which won at Hull a fortnight ago. Gonzalo Jara Reyes, who arrived back from international duty yesterday, was replaced by Sam Hutchinson. It was the Chelsea loanee’s first start since picking up a knee injury at Crystal Palace in September.
Lansbury - a doubt before the game after picking up an injury on England Under 21 duty - had the first shot of the game on seven minutes. He exchanged passes with Simon Cox on the edge of the area before driving powerfully at goal. Ankergren appeared to be caught out by the effort but he managed to palm it away.
Three minutes later, Cox met Hutchinson’s pinpoint cross with a delicate header which drifted on to the roof of the net.
The full back then saw an effort of his own blocked, before Adlene Guedioura sent a speculative strike wide from range.
All the early chances were going to Forest - a fair reflection on what had been a dominant start by the hosts - and on 15 minutes Darius Henderson stung Ankergren’s hands at the his near post.
But the best chance of the opening stages fell to Andy Reid a minute later.
Cox burst into Brighton’s half and slid the Irishman into the area. He appeared to attempt a precise dink but his effort went harmlessly over.
Two minutes later, Danny Collins was booked for a late lunge on Ulloa as the striker raced into Reds territory.
Brighton eventually settled into the match and Forest had to wait until the 31st minute to carve out their next opportunity.
Radi Majewski’s low cross-cum-shot deflected into Henderson’s path but Ankergren got down brilliantly to block the onrushing striker’s effort.
On the stroke of half-time, the 'keeper got a hand to Henderson’s wicked drive from the left and Cox couldn’t quite get there in time to turn it home.
But the biggest talking point of the half came in injury time. Elliott Ward fouled Kazenga LuaLua in front of the dugouts. The winger squared up to Hutchinson who went down after the pair clashed. LuaLua escaped with a yellow and the half ended 0-0.
The ex-Newcastle man was replaced by Dean Hammond at the break while Forest emerged unchanged.
The Reds made a sloppy start to the half and Brighton had their first real opening on 50 minutes. Ward’s clearance was poor and Ulloa picked up the ball with time and space on the edge of the Forest area. He curled his shot well wide.
Five minutes later, Cox did brilliantly to claim the ball in the corner after a lengthy chase. He passed it to Majewski and the Pole cut it back for Reid, who blasted over first time with a crowd of bodies in front of him.
But it was the visitors who took the lead on 57 minutes.
The build-up was controversial - Cohen appeared to win the ball cleanly in a challenge down the right but the linesman flagged for a foul. From the resultant free kick, Collins did brilliantly to head Ulloa’s effort over the bar.
But at the following corner, and after a spot of pinball in the area, the Argentinian popped up to make it 1-0 to The Seagulls.
The Reds were clearly frustrated, and Majewski found himself in the book on 65 minutes when he left his foot in on Buckley.
On 67 minutes, Karl Darlow was called into an acrobatic save to divert Matthew Upson’s header wide after the defender had latched on to Hammond’s shot.
At the resultant stoppage, Jara Reyes replaced Hutchinson.
On 72 minutes, Ulloa and Ward lost the ball in the sun. The striker got to it first and twisted before shooting well over the bar.
McGugan then replaced Majewski.
With 12 minutes to play, Henderson peeled away at the back post to meet Reid’s cross. His shot was saved and cleared for a corner, from which Ward headed over.
Billy Sharp then took to the field in place of Guedioura - and he watched Reid send a 30-yarder over shortly afterwards.
But McGugan had the scores level on 82 minutes. Reid played him into the area and he blasted home from a seemingly impossible angle.
Just as it looked like Forest would grasp the ascendancy, the visitors restored their lead. Buckley received the ball in acres of space in the area and finished beyond Darlow.
With two minutes to play, Henderson’s shot deflected agonisingly wide for a corner. Sharp met the delivery at the back post but didn’t catch it cleanly and it was easily saved by Ankergren.
And when Lansbury shot straight at the Dane from the edge of the area in the first of four added minutes, it appeared another simple stop was on the cards. Instead, the ball went through his legs and crawled over the line.
It was all Forest from then on but they failed to carve out another clear cut chance and the match ended 2-2.
Darlow, Hutchinson (Jara 68'), Ward, Collins(c), Cohen, Majewski (McGugan 73'), Guedioura (Sharp 79'), Lansbury, Reid, Henderson, Cox
Subs not used: Evtimov, Moussi, Halford, Blackstock
Scorers: McGugan 82', Lansbury 90'
Bookings: Collins 18', Majewski 65', Lansbury 90'
Ankergren, Calderon, Upson, Greer, Bridge, Crofts, David, Orlandi (Dunk 90'), Buckley, LuaLua (Hammond 46'), Ulloa
Subs not used: Brezovan, Painter, Dicker, Vicente, Barker
Scorers: Ulloa 57', Buckley 85'
Bookings: LuaLua 45', Ankergren 62'
Referee: James Linington
Attendance: 28,124 (Away: 2,771)