Real Salt Lake failed to hold on for victory away to the Columbus Crew despite seeing Federico Higuain miss a penalty.
The Royals had led through a Luis Gil goal and relied heavily on the heroics of Jeff Attinella, until Ethan Finley’s 88th minute equaliser saw the Crew recover a point.
Argentine forward Higuain missed an 11th minute penalty before succumbing to a suspected hamstring injury before half-time.
The hosts had won just one of their last ten matches, while Real were looking to bounce back from their first defeat of the season away to the Seattle Sounders FC.
But it was Columbus who started the brighter of the two teams and were gifted the chance to take the lead in the opening stages.
Agustin Viana was hauled to the ground in a tussle with Rich Balchan from Higuain’s out-swinging corner, and referee Baldomero Toledo pointed straight to the penalty spot.
The Crew’s top-scorer stepped up, but his attempt was wild, blazing off target from 12 yards.
Josh Williams mustered the only shot on target of the first period ten minutes later with a thumping volley from outside the area, but Jeff Attinella got across to parry the effort away.
In the final significant act of the half, Higuain’s miserable night was brought to an abrupt end as he hobbled off to be replaced by Ben Speas.
The former Besiktas forward sat out of last weekend’s late defeat to Toronto FC, and he appeared to be clutching his hamstring after a fruitless dash for the ball two minutes prior to his departure.
In his absence Speas took over set-piece duty, and it was from one of his corners that Bernardo Anor planted a header wide of the near post as the game continued in the same pattern as before the interval.
Real responded with their first period of continued pressure, and after numerous crosses into the box they found a breakthrough.
A loose ball dropped at the feet of Abdoulie Mansally 25 yards from goal, and when his low drive was too powerful for Steve Clark to hold, Gil was on hand to tuck home the rebound.
Columbus were struggling to regain a foothold in the match, but almost equalised in the 64th minute. A fine Hector Jiminez through-ball found Dominic Oduro bearing down on goal, but as the Ghanaian attempted to lift his finish over Attinella, the goalkeeper stood tall to repel his effort.
The American stopper had to be alert again minutes later to divert a dangerous cross away from the head of the onrushing Tony Tchani.
Then, in the 76th minute, Attinella had to be at his very best to claw Jiminez’s stunning volley out from under the cross-bar.
It was turning into a one-man show as he saved this time from Justin Meram, diving to his left and acrobatically tipping the 25-year-old’s curler around the post.
With the Crew focused fully on finding a crucial equaliser, the visitors almost settled the game on the counter. Devon Sandoval breached the yellow backline, but found his route to goal blocked by Clark.
Despite the Royals’ impressive credentials, they spent the majority of the closing stages camped in their own third of the field, and they were once more thankful to their goalkeeper in the 87th minute.
Finley turned Meram’s cross towards the top corner, but Attinella refused to be beaten, tipping the substitute’s shot out for a corner.
Despite holding well from Oduro’s low strike, the American was finally beaten with just two minutes remaining.
Speas’ perfectly measured pass saw Finley break the offside trap, and the 23-year-old lofted the ball over the stranded goalkeeper.
Not satisfied with a point, Columbus came forward again but couldn’t score a second in the dying moments, and will now hope that Higuain will be available for the weekend’s trip to DC United.
Write for GiveMeSport! Sign-up to the GMS Writing Academy here: http://gms.to/1a2u3KU