GEORGE Baldock rescued Oxford United with a late strike which earned a draw against Morecambe at the Kassam Stadium.

The shot-shy hosts appeared to be heading for a damaging defeat, but the full back popped up to bag an 87th-minute equaliser.

It provided a degree of relief for the United fans and preserved the side's five-point advantage over the bottom two.

They had been chasing the game after Kevin Ellison opened the scoring in the tenth minute, but were frustratingly unable to turn possession into opportunities.

Incredibly, they almost won it through Patrick Hoban, but had to settle for a point.

Following Saturday's goalless draw at Portsmouth, U's boss Michael Appleton named an unchanged starting line-up.

On the bench, Armand Gnanduillet came in 24 hours after joining on loan, with Giorgio Rasulo making way.

There was very little quality in the opening exchanges, with neither side able to get any control on the ball.

The first noteworthy incident came in the tenth minute, when Morecambe opened the scoring out of the blue.

A neat move found Jack Redshaw, whose low shot was parried by Ryan Clarke into the path of Ellison, who converted from close range.

The veteran had scored the only goal of the reverse fixture from an offside position in August and although Joe Skarz appealed for a flag, the officials awarded the strike.

United had come into the game upbeat after picking up four points from their previous two games, but they were terribly disjointed in the opening half hour.

Simple passes went astray and up front Patrick Hoban and Danny Hylton were unable to hold on to the ball.

With a lead to protect, Morecambe had no qualms about wasting as much time as they could, even with more than an hour to play.

The initiative was there for United - and as the half wore on they began to stir.

Baldock and Alex MacDonald looked the more likely to create something down the right flank.

It took a while before the delivery troubled Morecambe and it took the hosts 37 minutes to muster an effort on goal, when Hylton had a tame shot saved by Andreas Arestidou from a Baldock cross.

The Shrimps goalkeeper was beaten three minutes later, but Josh Ruffels' looping header hit the top of the crossbar after Johnny Mullins nodded a MacDonald free-kick across goal.

The pattern of the game continued after the break.

United were in control until they reached the final third, where Arestidou went untested.

The only efforts of note saw Mullins and Skarz nodded wide harmlessly at set pieces.

In response, Appleton threw on Gnanduillet, Kemar Roofe and, later, James Roberts.

It had little effect and the home fans grew increasingly exasperated at their side's failure to try their luck.

But with three minutes of the 90 remaining, Baldock broke Morecambe's resistance with a shot which appeared to take a deflection on the way to looping into the far corner.

The hosts almost came up with a winner a minute later, when Hoban's shot beat Arestidou but hit a defender on the line. Roofe's follow-up struck the prone keeper and went wide as Morcambe held on for a point.

Oxford Utd (4-4-2): Clarke, Baldock, Mullins, Wright, Skarz, MacDonald, Collins, Ruffels, O'Dowda, Hylton, Hoban.

Subs used: Gnanduillet (Hylton 64), Roofe (O'Dowda 64), Roberts (MacDonald 79).

Unused subs: Ashdown, Long, Dunkley, Rose.

Booked: Morecambe (3-4-1-2): Arestidou, Hughes, Edwards, Parrish, Beeley, Fleming, Wright (Goodall 58), Wilson, Devitt (Amond 73), Redshaw (Mullin 79), Ellison.

Unused subs: Stewart, Kenyon, Williams, Mullin, McGowan.

Booked: Fleming, Beeley.

Referee: Frederick Graham (Essex).

Attendance: 6,924 (51 visitors).