Jimmy Keohane bagged a last-minute equaliser for Exeter City as the Grecians played out an entertaining 3-3 draw with Devon rivals Torquay United last night.
An even first half saw Exeter storm into a 2-0 lead inside 22 minutes with goals from Arron Davies and Jamie Cureton, but Torquay pegged them back by half-time as Lloyd Macklin and Aaron Downes struck to make it 2-2.
Billy Bodin made it 3-2 to Torquay five minutes into the second half, but Keohane's neat finished ensured bragging rights were shared between the Gulls and the Grecians.
On paper, Exeter appeared to have the stronger starting line-up with a side that many feel could start their season opener at home to Morecambe. Alan Gow was perhaps the one omission, while Torquay left a number of their 'big hitters' on the bench. Captain Lee Mansell, left-back Kevin Nicholson and £70,000 summer signing Bodin were all called into action after the break.
Rene Howe had the first sight at goal, but his shot from 20 yards flew high over the Exeter crossbar. All in all though, it was a cagey opening ten minutes or so with neither side creating much in the final third.
That was until the 13th minute when a mistake in the Torquay defence by Aaron Downes saw Jamie Cureton burst in on goal. The Exeter striker advanced to the edge of the penalty box before firing wildly over Martin Rice's crossbar.
The deadlock was broken on 15 minutes though and in spectacular style. Davies reacted quickly when a loose ball broke to him 25 yards out and he hit an exquisite instinctive shot that found Rice's top corner from 25 yards. It was the Welshman's first goal of the Grecians' pre-season campaign.
Torquay responded with a corner kick that flashed across the face of goal. Howe was close to getting a touch, but was put off by the imposing Danny Coles.
The Grecians were beginning to play some decent football and after Cureton had won his side a corner kick, the veteran goal getter made it 2-0 on 22 minutes. A deep corner kick was returned at the back post by Pat Baldwin and as the ball bounced around the six yard box, Cureton lashed a shot into the top corner.
Liam Sercombe curled a shot wide after more decent play - Guillem Bauza was beginning to pull the strings for the Grecians - but it was Torquay who were next to score with another goal of fine quality.
Macklin got inside of Steve Tully and with Artur Krysiak off his line, the young winger showed a cool head to lob a fine finish over the head of the Exeter goalkeeper and into the net.
Exeter responded with Bauza, Cureton, Matt Oakley and Davies combining to tee up Cureton, but his powerful drive was palmed away by Rice and on the stroke of half-time, Torquay equalised.
Howe's long range effort was charged down by Scot Bennett for a Torquay corner, which was taken by Macklin. He picked out Downes at the near post. Who stooped far too easily to head an emphatic equaliser.
Danny Stevens brought the half to a close with a free kick, which was saved by Krysiak, but it was Martin Ling who looked the happier of the two managers as they departed at half-time.
Both teams made wholesale changes at the break and the second half saw Cruise switch to right-back for the Gulls. Exeter had an experimental central defensive partnership of Bennett and Tully and it was Tully who was turned by Bodin shortly after half-time. Torquay's £70,000 summer signing showed great feet before firing a low shot into the corner. Krysiak got a hand to it, but could not keep the ball out.
Howe was causing problems with his strength and pace and one fine run, in which he left Bennett for dead, ended with Tully turning his cross behind for a corner kick.
Torquay were looking far more composed after the break with Exeter disjointed and struggling to put any passing moves together. Amankwaah did go close with a header from a Sercombe cross, but that was as good as it got for the Grecians.
Ashley Yeoman almost made it 402 when he latched onto Tully's poor back header, but after flicking the ball over Krysiak, Bennett got back to clear for Exeter.
John O'Flynn missed a glorious chance to equalise for Exeter after Elliott Chamberlain and Tom Nichols combined well on the right and Tommy Doherty skied another decent chance high for the Grecians.
Torquay substitute Niall Thompson came within a whisker of adding a fourth for the Gulls after some wonderful flowing football. However, his shot hit the inside of the Exeter post before being hacked to safety.
Keohane's free-kick deflected wide for Exeter as they chased an equalising goal and in the final minute, it came. Elliott Frear did exceptionally well down the left and his cut back was tucked into the bottom corner by Keohane.
Exeter were looking the more likely to win the game and Frear pulled a shot just wide of the far post in stoppage time. However, both teams can be happy with the way the played in an entertaining game, which bodes well for the new season.
Exeter City (4-4-2): Krysiak; Tully (Keohane 84), Coles (Chamberlain h-t), Baldwin (Amankwaah h-t), Woodman (Moore-Taylor 72); Sercombe (Tilson 84), Oakley (Doherty h-t), Bennett (Dawson 84), Davies (Frear 72); Bauza (Nichols 72), Cureton (O'Flynn 62).
Goals: Davies 15, Cureton 22, Keohane 90
Torquay United (4-5-1): Rice; Leadbetter (Nicholson h-t), Saah (MacKenzie 70), Downes, Cruise; Macklin (Yeoman 62), Easton, Lathrope (Mansell h-t), Craig (Morris h-t), Stevens (Bodin h-t); Howe (Thompson 75).
Goals: Macklin 35, Downes 45, Bodin 50