Rob Duffy saved Conference leaders Oxford United from a shock home defeat by lowly Southport with an 89th-minute penalty last night.

Substitute Yemi Odubade was tripped by Stephen Rowland on the right edge of the box, although Port players angrily contested the decision.

Duffy then took his tally for the season to eight goals in nine games with his second cool penalty conversion of the game.

The Welsh striker had earlier hauled Jim Smith's team level after they had trailed to an early goal.

United were not at their best, and their defending at corners was abysmal.

So to have got anything from the match, and to have kept their unbeaten record - which shows their resolve - will feel like a victory.

Two headed goals from Dino Maamria at corners looked like bringing Southport a win few would have predicted.

The former Doncaster and Stevenage striker got his first at a third-minute corner which caught Oxford cold.

Maamria was unmarked at the near post to glance in James Olsen's flag kick with his head.

Most of the crowd were expecting the U's to hit back in anger, but they did little of the sort.

Their agitation showed with a succession of misplaced passes, surprisingly from the senior players like Steve Basham and Phil Gilchrist.

Andy Burgess, who had been so outstanding in Oxford's 2-0 win over York three days earlier, found himself tightly man-marked by Michael Powell and was frequently stifled.

Port got men behind the ball and enjoyed what opportunities they had to break, Joe Fowler racing 50 yards along the right on one occasion before cutting inside and driving across the face of the goal.

Burgess tried his luck on the left wing, dragging Powell over there in the process, and leaving a gap in the middle.

But he was more dangerous when he was involved in the play as much as possible, and soon returned to the centre.

In the last 15 minutes of the first half, United began to play the ball to feet more crisply and, with Carl Pettefer having a fine game, openings began to arrive.

A fast interchange of passes, instigated by Pettefer, ended with Duffy hitting a fierce 25-yard drive that had goalkeeper Ryan Robinson beaten, but was rising all the time and cleared the bar.

The Oxford players were angered when the referee stopped them taking a quick free-kick, to give a Southport player a lecture, and he riled them even more for denying Rufus Brevett a penalty five minutes before half-time.

Brevett was clearly pulled back by Chris Lane on a run into the area, and the Southport right back continued to tug at the left back's shirt even inside the box.

But Surrey ref Steven Cook took play back to the original foul, outside the box, despite Burgess showing him where he thought the offence had been - some way inside.

Lane was booked for the foul and from Burgess's free-kick, Basham's flicked header flashed wide of the near post.

It had been a poor first half from the U's, who had to wait until 38 minutes to win a corner.

The keeper produced a weak punch from Burgess's flag kick and Chris Willmott's follow-up header was nodded off the line by Olsen.

Robinson pushed a deflected 30-yard free-kick around a post at the start of the second half, and that signalled the start of strong pressure from the league leaders.

It was from a jinking run from right back Eddie Anaclet that Oxford won a penalty to get back into the match.

He dribbled past two players, but was chopped down by Daniel Kirkup and Duffy calmly converted the penalty into the top left of the goal.

Southport regained the lead with 15 minutes to go as Maamria nodded in again at a corner which floated over Billy Turley and was headed back by Carl Baker.

Once again it was poor marking from the U's, and there was a question over Turley's positioning.

But Oxford, who had moved the ball well and dominated the second half, were piling on the pressure in the closing minutes, against a physical Southport side who resorted to anything to stop them breaking through.

Burgess was scythed down by Powell, who was very lucky to stay on, and all of these incidents were building up to a crescendo in the final seconds.

And when Odubade sprinted along the right and went down, after a challenge by Rowland, it needed a cool head from the spot - especially as Basham and Barry Quinn had missed penalties in previous matches.

Duffy knew exactly what to do, and buried the penalty into exactly the same part of the goal as his earlier one to make it 2-2.