Burnley 1, Middlesbrough 1
Middlesbrough were given a taste of their own medicine as the Clarets left it late to salvage a vital point in the top-of-the-table clash at Turf Moor.
As the fixture edged in to six minutes of stoppage time the home side faced the threat of dropping out of the Championship’s automatic places for the first time in two months.
With Brighton beating QPR at the Amex Stadium and Aitor Karanka’s side leading through Jordan Rhodes’ opener the Clarets had temporarily dropped to third.
However, man of the match Michael Keane was the saviour as he poked home substitute Matt Taylor’s corner in the second minute of additional time to spark delirium in the stands and extend Burnley’s unbeaten run to 20 games.
Neither keeper was tested in a goalless first half though the visitors were denied by the woodwork early on.
Stewart Downing’s corner was cleared as far as Albert Adomah on the edge of the box and the winger set himself before clattering the crossbar with a thunderous strike.
Gaston Ramirez, signed by Southampton from Serie A side Bologna in 2012 for a £12m fee, has proven to be a revelation since joining Boro on loan in January and there were various moments that portrayed his Premier League quality.
One of those moments almost led to the opening goal when the Uruguayan, this time stationed on the left hand side, whipped a sumptuous cross behind Burnley’s backline where £9m man Rhodes glanced wide of the target at full stretch at the far post.
The Clarets had struggled to make an impression but they did go close when Joey Barton allowed Scott Arfield’s header to roll across him before troubling Dimi Konstantopoulos with an effort from 25 yards that travelled just wide of the upright.
Sky Bet Championship Player of the Year Andre Gray flicked wide acrobatically once Sam Vokes flicked on Ben Mee’s set-piece before Arfield had the chance to replicate his winner against Leeds United earlier in the month.
The midfielder had the ball in a similar position after Vokes and Gray had combined in the build up but, after shaping himself to shoot on his left foot, he missed the target.
And with the last chance of the half George Boyd, who netted in victory against Birmingham City at St Andrews, lifted a volley in to the stands as Barton’s free kick was headed clear.
Ramirez continued to cause problems again after the break and Adomah should’ve been the benefactor of his craft.
The midfielder sparked the counter when capitalising on Gray’s poor pass and, when held up by Mee on the edge of the box, fed the Ghanaian winger who sliced wide.
Adomah was in again soon after when peeling off Arfield to meet Ramirez’s delivery but he squandered the chance with just Tom Heaton to beat.
At this point there still hadn’t been a shot on goal but that was about to change. After Barton headed over from Matt Lowton’s corner, the visitors broke the deadlock.
There wasn’t anything particularly menacing about Downing’s free kick in to the penalty area until Daniel Ayala’s towering header fell kindly for Rhodes who, having been anonymous for the majority of the evening, stabbed home in typical poacher’s fashion.
Burnley were behind, facing an almighty climb to peg back their rivals, but the set back seemed to strike a chord among the players and they started to turn the screw in search of the equaliser.
Lloyd Dyer’s introduction was once again pivotal as his pace pegged Emilio Nsue back while Ashley Barnes and Matthew Taylor would also go on to play their parts.
Before being withdrawn leading scorer Gray was denied by the outstretched leg of substitute Ritchie De Laet as his effort threatened to creep in to the corner and that engineered the resurgence.
Taylor’s free kick took a nick on its way to goal and squirmed past the upright as the Clarets went closer before Adam Clayton’s sensationally committed block foiled Barnes from close range.
But Keane was the hero from the resulting corner as the ball broke in to his path and he found the aperture between De Laet’s foot and the post.
The Clarets, who travel to Deepdale to take on Preston North End on Friday, are second on goal difference with just three games remaining.