PHIL Edwards struck in stoppage-time to give Oxford United a dramatic victory against promotion-chasing Scunthorpe United.
The full back got a touch after Curtis Nelson showed great composure when a corner fell his way in the 91st-minute.
It completed a victory which looked highly unlikely after a dreadful first half.
Paddy Madden put the visitors in front with the only highlight of an otherwise turgid 45 minutes where both sets of players struggled in testing conditions.
But John Lundstram’s volley six minutes after the restart changed the mood in the Kassam Stadium.
The U’s skipper also hit the crossbar as the game looked to be heading for a draw, until the late drama which earned a precious three points.
- Curtis Nelson takes aim with a shot which ended in the far corner of the net in stoppage-time
Michael Appleton opted to change half his outfield side from the midweek defeat at Oldham Athletic.
Kick-off was delayed after U’s goalkeeper Simon Eastwood was sent back up the tunnel for a change of kit after referee Tim Robinson ruled it clashed with Scunthorpe’s shirts.
When the game began the home side forged a couple of early openings, created by players brought into the side.
Josh Ruffels’s chipped pass carved out a chance for Lundstram, who could only flick the ball skywards for Luke Daniels to claim.
The Iron goalkeeper was almost caught out in the seventh minute. Liam Sercombe’s 25-yard shot looked tame, but hit a bobble which saw Daniels fumble.
Unfortunately Conor McAleny, who was closest to the goal, had already turned away, assuming the shot would be saved comfortably.
Scunthorpe had shown very little, but they opened the scoring with the only moment of quality in the first half.
Madden pulled into space on the left side of the penalty area and the striker expertly curled a first-time shot into the far corner.
United fans were quickly on their feet with a show of support to the family of superfan Steve Dyer, who died this week and has been added as the club’s 12th man for the rest of the season.
Back on the pitch, the game disintegrated into a desperate affair devoid of imagination.
A strong breeze and uneven playing surface led to players on both sides giving the ball away cheaply.
But United did not help themselves. The selection of Liam Sercombe and Joe Rothwell meant the home side lacked width and with Scunthorpe deploying a narrow diamond in midfield, moves repeatedly broke down in the heavily congested central areas.
It meant the game went almost half an hour after the goal for the next moment of danger.
A flicked header saw Stephen Dawson find space in the box and from his dangerous cross Joe Skarz did very well to get in front of Madden, who was poised for an easy finish six yards out.
It was a big surprise to see Appleton not make any changes at the break and as the scrappy game continued it looked an even more perplexing move.
But six minutes after the restart, United equalised out of the blue.
Curtis Nelson spread the ball wide to Joe Skarz, who had the freedom of the left flank to measure a deep cross which was volleyed in by Lundstram.
It transformed the sleepy atmosphere and the home fans were almost cheering a second goal four minutes later.
Lundstram, who had not scored all season, struck the bar with a curled 20-yard effort. Daniels was beaten, but sprung back to his feet to save Rothwell’s follow-up.
- John Lundstram celebrates his first goal of the season
A half chance quickly followed for Toni Martinez, who did not get hold of his shot ten yards out.
Scunthorpe gradually steadied the ship and Madden twice tested Eastwood.
A point was no good for either side’s ambitions and Marvin Johnson was thrown on for Rothwell with 17 minutes remaining.
United’s chance to nick a winner came two minutes from time, when a long throw was headed into the air and fell to Liam Sercombe.
The midfielder caught his volley sweetly from eight yards, but it was straight at Daniels.
It looked like United’s chance had gone, but in stoppage-time a cheap corner fell to Nelson, whose shot was turned in by Edwards.
Oxford Utd (4-4-2): Eastwood, Edwards, Dunkley, Nelson, Skarz, Sercombe, Lundstram, Ruffels, Rothwell, McAleny, Martinez.
Subs used: Johnson (Rothwell 73), Hemmings (Martinez 83).
Unused subs: Stevens, Raglan, Ledson, Hall, Maguire.
Scunthorpe Utd (4-4-2): Daniels, Clarke, Mirfin (Davies 90), Wallace, Toffolo, Ness, Bishop, Dawson (Adelakun 83), Morris, Madden, Hopper (Toney 62).
Unused subs: Anyon, Wiseman, Holmes, Goode.
Referee: Tim Robinson (West Sussex).
Attendance: 7,652 (394 visitors).