OXFORD United dug deep in the second half to grind out a point which extended their mini-unbeaten run in Sky Bet League One to three games.

The visitors enjoyed the best of the first half, where Curtis Nelson hit the woodwork and Shandon Baptiste had a shot cleared off the line.

But United suffered a blow when Baptiste was forced off with a suspected dislocated shoulder and Rovers looked a different side after the break.

Substitute Kyle Bennett gave the home side far more of a cutting edge and they dominated the second half.

Simon Eastwood made one brilliant save to turn Tom Nichols’s header on to the crossbar and while the visitors had chances on the break, they were arguably the happier side with a point in the end.

Although the U's remained in the bottom four, a three-game unbeaten run – with a hat-trick of clean sheets – is a step in the right direction and their longest sequence without a league defeat in 2018.

Baptiste replaced the suspended Cameron Brannagan, while a back injury ruled out Ricky Holmes, so Gavin Whyte took his place.

A scrappy start meant it took almost 20 minutes for either side to threaten, Rovers goalkeeper Jack Bonham blocking a shot from Marcus Browne.

The hosts came into the game without a goal in their last four games and they rarely threatened breaking their drought before the break.

Although U’s centre backs Nelson and Rob Dickie had the upper hand in the air from open play, the home side continued to look long for front pairing Nichols and Alex Jakubiak.

Nichols nodded an Ed Upson free-kick well over, but just after the half-hour mark the striker had a big shout for a penalty when he was blocked off by Dickie in the box.

Referee Tom Nield was in a good position and after taking a moment to consider the decision, he waved play on.

It did little to endear him to the Rovers fans, who were unhappy as Tony Craig, Liam Sercombe and Jakubiak were cautioned.

Browne and Jamie Mackie, continuing his role as harasser-in-chief from last week, also had their names taken in a feisty encounter.

In between the stoppages, United played the best football.

Nelson headed a McMahon free-kick against the near post, while Bonham made a smart one-handed save diving to his right to keep out James Henry’s low 20-yard shot in first-half stoppage-time.

The closest United came to breaking the deadlock came when McMahon’s cross from the right fell for Baptiste, whose prodded shot beat Bonham but was cleared off the line by Rovers skipper Tom Lockyer.

It his last action of the game, with the midfielder replaced by Samir Carruthers in the 40th minute.

Rovers will have been pleased to get into the break still on level terms and boss Darrell Clarke’s response was a double change.

Bennett, one of those introduced, immediately gave the hosts a more attacking edge.

He forced two quick corners, before forcing Eastwood into a save.

Nichols shot wide from another Bennett burst, before the U’s goalkeeper worked miracles just after the hour, turning Nichols’s header on to the crossbar. The ball fell behind Stuart Sinclair, whose shot was superbly blocked by Nelson.

The visitors were riding their luck, but a minute later almost broke the deadlock themselves when Mackie’s shot was blocked after good work from Henry and Carruthers. United appealed it had been kept out by a defender's hand, but it went unpunished.

The breathless spell continued, with Eastwood smothering a chance for Nichols, while a quick United break saw Whyte have a low shot saved.

Eventually the game settled down again and with United unable to retain the ball for long, they looked happier to settle for a point late on.

B Rovers (4-4-2): Bonham, Partington, Lockyer, Craig, Kelly, Sinclair, O Clarke (Matthews HT), Upson, Sercombe, Nichols (Payne 84), Jakubiak (Bennett HT).

Unused subs: Smith, Lines, J Clarke, Rodman.

Booked: Craig, Sercombe, Jakubiak.

Oxford Utd (4-2-3-1): Eastwood, McMahon, Nelson, Dickie, Ruffels, Mousinho, Baptiste (Carruthers 40), Whyte, Henry, Browne (Hanson 77), Mackie (Smith 90).

Unused subs: Mitchell, Garbutt, Long, Raglan.

Booked: Browne, Mackie.

Referee: Tom Nield (West Yorkshire).

Attendance: 8,506 (921 visitors).