Simon Haworth tried to see the light through the darkness after 10 man Clitheroe conceded a last-minute equaliser in a 2-2 draw away at Ossett Town on Saturday.
Even with their numerical disadvantage, the Blues seemed certain to remedy their defeat to Prescot Cables after a battling display at Ingfield, but they were to be denied just seconds before the final whistle sounded.
Goalkeeper Chris Thompson made an early intervention when pawing a looping header from underneath the crossbar, and at the other end the returning Dimitri Tuanzebe couldn’t quite stab home the rebound after Alex Newby had drawn a save from Leon Wigglesworth.
Town took the lead midway through the half, countering as Danny Brady lost possession, and following a neat succession of passes it was left to Craig Nelthorpe to find the net.
Three minutes later, the lead would have been doubled except for a finger tip save at full stretch from Thompson.
The Blues were back on level terms on the half hour when Newby was upended inside the penalty area and the striker picked himself up and dusted himself down before dispatching the spot kick to make it 1-1.
On 37 minutes, Ross Dent burst forward from his own half, and laid the ball at pace to Tuanzebe who rounded the keeper but conspired to hit the side-netting.
Tuanzebe almost made amends moments later as he jinked on the left and drove a scudding cross in, which somehow evaded an outstretched Newby leg.
However, the visitors did take the lead in to the interval and 18-year-old debutant George Hughes played a vital role.
The midfielder, on loan from Shrewsbury Town, dinked a superb free kick over the defence and in two movements Newby had controlled the ball and buried it in the net.
The game, though, changed completely in the 53rd minute when Dent was given his marching orders by referee Lee Hible following a melee at a throw in.
A post-mortem by the officials lasting many minutes saw three more yellows awarded, but the game was now about containment for the Blues.
The visitors kept their shape and apart from a point blank save by Thompson on 70 minutes, Ossett barely had a shot.
But, with time running out, Jason Yates scored the goal of the game when picking out the top corner with a tremendous effort from 30 yards out.
And it nearly got worse when with 94 minutes on the clock, the woodwork came to Clitheroe’s rescue.
“We responded well to going a goal down and we had that spell where we could have been out of sight because we were well in control of the game.,” said Haworth.
“The ref lost all control of it following an incident early in the second half though. There was a bit of a flair up and he lost his grip.
“There were handbags, Ross Dent retaliated and was sent off for raising his hands. They were both at it so it should have been two yellows or two reds. Instead their man, who instigated it, was allowed to stay on the pitch.
“Ross will be out for three games now and he’s been pivotal for us. It ruined the game a bit but we still defended well with 10 men.”
He added: “I think we would have won comfortably with 11 men on the field. We still didn’t seem under any threat though but I turned to my assistant and said it was going to take something spectacular for them to equalise.
“I shouldn’t have opened my mouth because they put a 30-yarder in to the top corner.
“I’m trying to look at it as one point gained having played the majority of the second half with 10 men. It was a positive result to stop the rot straight away.”