A golden chance to close the gap was thrown away by Holbeach United.
Having raced into a 3-0 lead after 14 minutes, the Tigers surely should have ended this season’s unbeaten record for AFC Kempston Rovers.
Instead, they were left hanging on for a point.
Holbeach need more than draws from these matches against the top teams to have any opportunity of being part of the championship battle.
Overall, though, this was a positive response to boss Tom Roberts’ demands for the players to take responsibility.
In a stunning start, Sean Coughlan was unplayable on his full debut on loan from Stamford-based FootballCV Academy.
It took just over a couple of minutes to open the scoring – moments after ex-Holbeach winger Ash Fuller had wasted the first chance.
Coughlan showed strength to hold off defender Robbie Goodman and a low left-foot finish beat Martin Conway.
Seven minutes later it was 2-0 as Coughlan’s right-wing cross was spilled at the near post by Conway, providing a tap-in for Jordan Thomas.
Coughlan came close to scoring again as he went past Conway but this time the shot was cleared inside the six-yard box.
Holbeach went 3-0 up as assistant-manager Andrew Tidswell’s corner was met by Stacy Cartwright on the volley.
Soon afterwards, a cut above Cartwright’s eye forced Roberts into a reshuffle with Josh Ford, Dan Worthington and Jake Clitheroe moving positions.
Alex Stoyles nodded over and Shane Bush’s deflected drive was brilliantly parried by Rick Drury.
A double substitution at the start of the second half led to Kempston taking full control in their comeback.
Jamaine Ivy’s close-range header made it 3-1 after Sam Johnson’s corner was flicked on.
Five minutes later, Ivy was tripped by Worthington and Dom Marsala beat Drury from the penalty spot.
Stand-in skipper Matt Warfield’s push in the back of Bush allowed Marsala to level from 12 yards.
Bush should have won it for Kempston but he slipped when unmarked in the six-yard box.
Drury denied substitute Joshua Winters and then Sam Macrae’s effort took a slight deflection and went fractionally wide.
Holbeach held on but one point was not really enough – especially after an amazing start.
The big surprise was that referee Gavin Jolley did not show a red card from any one of a series of challenges by players on both sides.
While it’s always too easy to criticise the officials, let’s reflect on a cracking game.
4-1-4-1: Drury 8; Worthington 6, Cartwright 7 (sub Acar 21 mins, 7), Warfield 6, Ward 6; Tidswell 7; Clitheroe 7, Dougill 7, J Ford 7, Thomas 7; Coughlan 8. Subs not used: Newcombe, Russon, L Ford, Roberts.
AFC KEMPSTON ROVERS
4-1-4-1: Conway; Guiney, Goodman, Stoyles (sub Johnson h-t), Simpson; Riley (sub Winters 72 mins); Fuller (sub Lyon h-t), Macrae, Bush, Marsala; Ivy. Subs not used: Flanagan, Knox.
Coughlan (2 mins, 1-0); Thomas (9 mins, 2-0); Cartwright (14 mins, 3-0); Ivy (50 mins, 3-1); Marsala pen (55 mins, 3-2); Marsala pen (69 mins, 3-3).
Clitheroe, Riley, Dougill (fouls); Coughlan (kicking ball away); Tidswell (dissent).
Sean Couglan – simply unplayable with pace in early exchanges of his full debut, scoring and claiming an assist.
Rothwell Corinthians (A) – Tuesday.