Oxford United ended one of the most momentous years in their history with mixed emotions.

Rob Duffy's 79th-minute equaliser preserved their unbeaten home record this season, but their failure to win in front of their own fans, for the second successive game, allowed Dagenham & Redbridge to take over from them at the top of the Conference.

Long-time leaders Oxford have headed the table since September 1, but December proved a wretched month for Jim Smith's side, who only just rescued a point against plucky Crawley.

Rob Duffy's 15th goal of the season salvaged a point for the U's, but they were again unimpressive.

Crawley players felt at the time that the Welsh striker was offside when Andy Burgess flicked on Carl Pettefer's pass.

However, the assistant referee's flag stayed down and Duffy buried a low shot past keeper Ben Hamer from the left side of the box.

Yet afterwards Scott Hiley admitted he had played Duffy on.

Crawley had stunned Oxford by taking the lead deep into stoppage time at the end of the first half.

Burgess was caught in possession and from Ben Judge's pass, Tony Scully beat Phil Gilchrist and then rounded Billy Turley, who had come way out of his goal, before slotting home from a tight angle.

Crawley then missed a great chance to go 2-0 ahead in the 62nd minute and put the game out of United's reach.

The home side were caught on the break following a poor pass from Burgess and Scott Rendell had only Turley to beat when a right-wing cross landed at his feet. Rendell got his effort on target, but Turley saved with his foot.

Oxford felt Yemi Odubade had won a penalty when he skilfully flicked the ball over Hiley and the keeper and appeared to be clattered by Lee Blackburn. But the home fans' penalty appeals were to no avail.

And soon after Steve Basham had come off the bench, he fired over from a good position at the end of a slick move from a throw-in when Burgess whipped over a cross and Duffy headed back into Basham's path.

Jim Smith had made three changes to the team held at home by Woking on Boxing Day, the most significant seeing Odubade taking over frrom Basham in attack.

The surface was greasy after long spells of rain but was in a much better condition than most other surfaces around the country.

Gavin Johnson, another recalled by Smith, was involved in two good opportunities for the U's in the first half.

In the 16th minute he struck a 25-yard drive on the volley which Hamer saved above his head, and midway through the half an even better chance came his way.

Odubade got around the back of Hiley and pulled back a deep cross from the right. Johnson probably had time to bring the ball down and shoot, but went for the spectacular volley which flew well wide.

Crawley's caretaker joint manager David Woozley was doing a sterling job at the back, against his old club, and he read the danger superbly to stick out a foot in the nick of time when Rob Duffy headed on for Odubade.

United tried to fire over crosses to create openings, but when Burgess met Johnson's left-wing centre, he couldn't get power on his header and Hamer saved comfortably.

At the other end, Turley was tested by a long-range drive from Hiley.

Burgess had United's best effort of the first half just before the interval when he was picked out by Carl Pettefer's cross over the Crawley defence, but his half-volley shot drifted past the far post.

Oxford's late equaliser had been coming.

Just before Duffy struck, they had twice gone close, Hamer making a good save from Duffy's downward header. Shortly before, he had superbly parried another Duffy header over the bar after Burgess chipped in a cross from the left.

But it was a disappointing way to end 2006.