Newport County AFC had to settle for a point at Rodney Parade as Forest Green Rovers struck late to share a six-goal thriller in South Wales.
Interestingly that late goal was the only strike to come during the second-half, as County edged a five-goal thriller in the opening 45 minutes through Paul Hayes' first ever career hat-trick.
It was in-fact the visitors to strike first in what was a pulsating first-half, as Dan Butler inadvertently turned a Haydn Hollis cross into his own net in the 6th minute.
County were intent on not being behind for too long, however, and had turned the game completely on its head by the time 17 minutes had elapsed in the contest.
Butler made amends for the own goal by providing the stunning half-volley from 25 yards that Hayes got the faintest of touches to in order to divert it into the net, before the left-back again turned provider from a corner to allow Hayes to head home from all of two yards.
Rovers found their equaliser exactly on the half-hour mark, Gavin Gunning drilling through a host of bodies from four yards after Reuben Reid had done well to set his captain up.
The goals for the first-half were capped off by County taking a lead back with them to the dressing rooms, Hayes again reacting instinctively to pass the ball into the net from all of four yards and complete a forty-minute hat-trick.
But Forest Green substitute Lee Collins struck with seven minutes remaining to ensure the points were shared in South Wales, confidently curling the ball in off the post after shrugging off the challenges of two County defenders.
That point sees the Exiles rise one place in the League 2 table after leapfrogging Cambridge United into 13th place, while they close the gap on the play-off positions to just eight points with 11 games remaining.
Mike Flynn elected to make just the one change to the side that secured a point in the goalless draw at Port Vale.
The postponement against Accrington Stanley on Saturday meant captain Joss Labadie completed his suspension during this game, while Frank Nouble missed out completely on the matchday squad.
Paul Hayes came in for his first start in County colours for a like-for-like change, as the Exiles again lined up in the familiar 3-5-2 formation from the off at Rodney Parade.
Forest Green manager Mark Cooper chose to name the same team that played in their last match ten days ago in the 2-0 home victory over Crawley Town.
That meant he stuck with the same team that had gotten him nominated for the manager of the month award in League 2 after going the whole of February unbeaten, with Reuben Reid and Christian Doidge leading the line up-front in a 4-4-2 formation.
Rovers brought in no less than 10 additions during the January window, meaning just the three players remained in the starting team from County’s 4-0 victory at the New Lawn back in October – Doidge being joined by Isaiah Osbourne and Dale Bennett in that fact.
It was certainly a fast start by the Exiles as they went in search of a first goal in six matches and they may have broken the deadlock after just 45 seconds.
A long ball found Padraig Amond unmarked in the centre, with away goalkeeper Bradley Collins making a smart save with his leg, before getting up quickly to prevent the follow up from Paul Hayes.
That double save seemed to spark the visitors into action as they looked to continue their positive start to the year and they duly took the lead in just the 6th minute.
It was mightily unlucky on the Exiles to concede such a cruel goal, as Dan Butler could do nothing but divert an inviting cross from Haydn Hollis into his own net from just outside the six-yard area.
But Butler certainly made amends for that mistake by playing a decisive role in County getting the equaliser just three minutes later.
This time it came from a Matty Dolan delivery, with Christian Doidge only able to head the delivery out to the County left-back, who hit the ball perfectly on the half-volley with the outside of the right foot to send the ball into the far corner from 25 yards via a slight deflection from Hayes.
You weren’t short of action at Rodney Parade, certainly an end-to-end affair being created by both teams, and Collins had to be alert to prevent a testing shot from Robbie Willmott after Amond had done superbly well to backheel the ball into his path.
But that save only delayed the inevitable as Hayes marked his first start for the Exiles by netting his second goal of the night from the resulting corner on 17 minutes.
It was certainly an eventful start to proceedings for Butler, again turning provider for the frontman, with Hayes expertly reading the offside line to head home unmarked from two yards.
The chances just kept on coming and this time it was Joe Day to make a fine save on 29 minutes.
Chris Clements tried his luck from 30 yards, the spin on the ball almost getting the better of Day, with Ben White doing ever so well to put in a goal-saving challenge to thwart Doidge getting the rebound.
But that again just delayed the inevitable as Rovers found their equaliser from a subsequent corner.
It was a well worked goal from the visitors, the delivery going straight out to the edge of the area before Reid worked it to his captain Gavin Gunning, who drilled home through a host of bodies from just inside the six-yard area.
There was no way of stopping the goals at Rodney Parade and the Exiles restored their advantage with five minutes of the half remaining.
Hayes was the man to complete his hat-trick with yet another reactive finish, calmly passing the ball into the net from five yards after Collins had done well to deny the initial thunderous attempt from Mark O’Brien.
Somewhat surprisingly, no further goals could be added by either side despite the indication of three additional minutes time added on, as County edged a five-goal first-half.
You would have to say that nearly every chance was transpiring into a goal, although both goalkeepers were alert to make one smart stop apiece from the opening 45 minutes.
Both sides were clearly intent on playing with attacking prowess at Rodney Parade, with the two teams creating an exciting contest throughout the opening of the contest.
The amount of chances couldn’t transpire into the second-half, however, although Demetriou was unlucky to be denied by a trailing leg from Collins on 54 minutes.
The Exiles were perhaps edging the proceedings as the game ticked into its final fifteen minutes, this time substitute Marlon Jackson unlucky to be prevented from getting his first of the season.
A cross fell the way of the attacker about five yards out, the initial shot blocked by Alex Bray, before Gunning tracked back well to prevent Jackson on the rebound.
And the away side made County pay for those missed chances as they grabbed their second equaliser of the night with six minutes remaining.
Substitute Lee Collins was the player to finish off an intricate passage of play by Forest Green, curling a clever finish in off the post from just outside the area to level proceedings for a third time in the game.
That was how it stayed despite the indication of six additional minutes added time, both teams getting a well-deserved point after a pulsating contest at Rodney Parade.
County: Day, Pipe, White, O’Brien (C) (Osadebe 67’), Demetriou, Butler, Willmott (Sheehan 85’), Dolan, Tozer, Amond, Hayes (Jackson 65’)
Subs not used: Bittner, McCoulsky, Reid, Collins
Forest Green: Collins, Bennett, Gunning, Rawson, Hollis, Bray (Brown 78’), Clements (Collins 65’), Osbourne, Grubb, Doidge (Wishart 58’), Reid
Subs not used: Belford, Laird, Cooper, Campbell
Referee: Christopher Sarginson
Attendance: 2,862 (283 AWAY)
Next up for County: Yeovil Town (10th March 2018) AWAY