Hemel Town came back from snowy Dartford with nothing to show for their efforts as two late strikes gave the home side the points in this pivotal clash with playoff implications at stake.
It was a massive disappointment for the Tudor Army who had braved the weather and turned out in healthy numbers, out-singing the home fans all game.
Their side were 2-1 up with 80 minutes on the clock and hopes of a famous win were hanging in the frigid air.
After early Hemel pressure, David Moyo and new signing Michael Cain both missed decent chances.
Then in the 16th minute, Dartford defender Tom Bonner cleared off the line to deny Tudors’ skipper Jordan Parkes the opener, before he was in the right place again before the break to block another goal-bound effort.
After this, the hosts started to get a foothold in the game and they pressed the visitors back. They didn’t really trouble Hemel keeper Laurie Walker too much but in the 31st minute they got lucky when a shot from Andy Pugh took a decisive nick off Darren Ward and the ball looped up before dipping into the net to give The Darts the lead.
This set-back didn’t seem to worry the Tudors too much and they started to push forward again. Cain had another effort blocked before Parkes smashed home a shot from outside the box to level the scores on 36 minutes. The ball appeared to take a slight deflection but it was still an excellent strike for the midfielder’s 15th goal of the season.
Dartford had a good opportunity from a free-kick just before the break but the training ground routine failed them, the ball being pushed through wide but with too much pace, ending up as a goal kick.
From the resulting kick Hemel raced forward and created a chance that was cleared for a corner. This was half-cleared before Spencer McCall chased the ball down on the right before turning and dropping an inch-perfect cross to Moyo’s feet as he arrived at the far post, the Tudors striker making no mistake from a yard out to put his side 2-1 in front right on half-time to the delight of the Tudor Army camped behind the goal.
As the snow continued to fall, Dartford sent on leading goalscorer Alfie Pavey at the break, changing formation, trying to push Hemel back.
As in the first period, they never really caused the Tudors back-line any problems and their efforts became increasingly desperate as the game drew to its conclusion.
With just 12 minutes on the clock remaining, there came two major turning points.
A superb counter attacking move saw Hemel create an excellent chance to put the game to bed and it was only a vital block by Nathan Collier that denied the visitors the third goal.
Hershel Sanchez Watt set up substitute Scotty Shulton, who delayed a fraction of a second too long, allowing the defender to chase back.
Just after this Parkes was replaced by striker Karl Oliyide. This seemed to disrupt Hemel somewhat and before they could adjust to their change in formation Dartford equalised, less than a minute after Parkes had departed.
It was another long-range effort from Pugh, who took advantage of the extra room he found himself in, picking the ball up on the edge of the area before curling it past Walker.
It was now a question of holding on as Dartford suddenly piled forward, the goal giving them a much-needed lift.
As time was running out it looked as though Hemel would hang on for a much-deserved point but they just couldn’t get across the finishing line and in the 90th minute Lee Noble crossed from the right where it was met by Pavey who nodded it back across the goal into the net to set off wild celebrations from the relieved Dartford contingent.
It was very harsh on the visitors who had looked set to pick up all three points but they ended up with none to drop them into the seventh and final playoff place in the National League South standings.
Hemel: Laurie Walker, Dan Spence, Kyle Connolly, Darren Ward, Joe Howe, Jordan Parkes (Karl Olyide, 80), Matt Saunders, Spencer McCall (James Kaloczi, 76), David Moyo , Hershel Sanchez Watt, Michael Cain (Scotty Shulton, 62). Subs not used: Will Hoskins, Danny Bonness.
Mitch’s man of the match: Jordan Parkes.