Reds showed tremendous resolve to come from 2-0 down to share the spoils with Coventry at Sixfields in Sunday's Sky Bet League One clash.
The Sky Blues looked on course to avenge their 3-2 defeat on the opening day of the season when they Franck Moussa added to Mat Sadler’s first-half own goal with nine minutes to go.
But then the visitors hit back. Jamie Proctor made it 2-1 with a powerful header before Andy Drury slammed in a close-range equaliser with three minutes to go. On the balance of play it was no more than Crawley deserved, especially for a strong second-half performance.
John Gregory made three changes to the side knocked out of the FA Cup last Wednesday, the most significant a start for Matt Tubbs, nearly two years after his last appearance in a red shirt. Gary Alexander partnered him up front, while Josh Simpson returned in central midfield in place of Sergio Torres and also wore the captain’s armband.
Tubbs and his team-mates struggled to cope with a fast start by the hosts which should have brought them a goal on four minutes. Cyrus Christie made a great run from right-back all the way to the by-line but his pull back across the face of goal was missed by everyone when the slightest of touches would have resulted in a goal.
Christie and Carl Baker posed real problems down Coventry’s right in the early stages and Baker twice let fly from outside the box but failed to test Paul Jones while he drove a free-kick from the edge of the box into the defensive wall.
Reds slowly began to get some decent possession without creating anything in the way of chances but Coventry’s good start had dissipated too and as half-time approach Crawley seemed to have their opponents at arm’s length.
But on 41 minutes Reds went behind from a set piece. Moussa, a midfielder playing up front because of the absence of Coventry’s 33-goal striker pair of Leon Clarke and Callum Wilson, won a corner on the left off Kyle McFadzean. Baker swung it towards the far post and as the heads went up the ball flew past Jones. Defender Andy Webster claimed the final touch but it might have gone in off the unfortunate Sadler.
Reds then had their best spell of the first half. Mike Jones’ cross picked out Alexander who glanced his header just wide of the upright before the lively Tubbs created space in the D but his shot flew a yard over the bar.
Reds produced a positive response at the start of the second half with Nicky Adams to the fore.
On 51 minutes the winger produced a great cross into the box but no one could get a decisive touch. Tubbs then robbed John Fleck 25 yards out and advanced into the box but failed to keep his shot on target, beating his fists onto his thighs in frustration at not at least working Joe Murphy. Then Adams produced a great free kick into the six-yard box but once again Coventry managed to scramble it clear.
Tubbs was involved again on 59 minutes when he did well to meet Mark Connolly’s angled cross but his header was straight at Murphy. It was turning into a frustrating afternoon for Crawley, who had failed to turn some decent possession into real threats on goal as the contest enter its final third.
Reds continued to look for an equaliser. There were appeals for a penalty when Adams’ cross appeared to hit a Coventry arm and they went close again with 12 minutes to go. Kyle McFadzean met Adams’ free kick inside the six-yard box but his downward header was brilliantly pushed away by Murphy. Moments later Gregory made a double change bringing on Proctor and Sergio Torres for Simpson and Alexander.
But with nine minutes remaining, from their only shot on target in the second half, Coventry doubled their lead from another corner. Baker swung it in and Webster's powerful header in a crowded six-yard box was touched over Jones by Moussa and into the net.
It looked all over for Crawley but they were given hope two minutes later. Drury produced an excellent cross from the right and Proctor headed it powerfully back and across Murphy for his second goal in as many games.
Then, with three minutes to go, the away end erupted as Reds drew level. Torres surged into the box and when his cross was only partially cleared Drury stabbed the ball into the roof of the net from close range.