Accrington Stanley were made to wait in their quest for automatic promotion as they were held 1-1 by a resilient Exeter side at the Wham Stadium.
The day started with a party atmosphere, but Stanley fell behind in the 21st minute to Jayden Stockley’s poachers finish inside the area.
Kayden Jackson’s 15th goal of the season before the interval got the crowd rocking again, but the Reds couldn’t find the winner that would send them up into League One.
However, John Coleman and his side know that a home win against Yeovil Town on Tuesday evening will see them clinch promotion.
Stanley started brightly, backed by a raucous atmosphere inside the Wham Stadium, as Scott Brown’s well struck half-volley was deflected wide by a last-ditch Exeter boot, before Sean McConville dragged his shot wide, following successive early corners.
Pre-match, Seamus Conneely had hailed this as the biggest game of his career, and he was presented with a shooting opportunity on the edge of the box, his shot deflected and almost found Mark Hughes in front of goal, but the Grecians back-line managed to clear.
But with almost their first venture forward, the visitors took the lead. Ex-Stanley loan striker Stockley, pouncing after Aaron Chapman had saved well from Matt Jay, lifting the ball smartly into the roof of the goal.
Exeter were denied a second goal just minutes later, Chapman touching Jay’s dipping volley over the crossbar with his finger tips.
In the 37th minute, and seconds after strike partner Billy Kee missed a good opportunity to draw Stanley level, Jackson would make no mistake – slamming the ball into Christy Pym’s top corner from the edge of the box, re-igniting the atmosphere amongst the Reds faithful and send the sides in level at the break.
Eight minutes into the second period and Jordan Clark was a matter of inches from edging the Reds ahead in spectacular style, his drive from 30-yards out just flashing over the bar.
Two minutes later, the matches outstanding performer Chapman, was forced into another crucial stop, after Exeter launched an incisive breakaway. The ball sat up kindly for Stockley, who looked certain to score his second, only for a strong hand from Stanley’s ‘keeper to deny him.
Chapman was in the action again just after the hour-mark, denying Jake Taylor’s strike from a tight angle, before Hiram Boateng’s strike deflected wide of the post as the Grecians cranked up the pressure.
As the clock ticked down, Stanley went in search of the winner that would secure promotion. Callum Johnson darted down the right hand side, but shot straight down the throat of Pym who made the stop, before denying Clark seconds later with a sprawling save at the feet of the winger.
The visitors finished strongly, but neither side could snatch all three points, and all eyes now turn to Tuesday evening’s clash with Yeovil at the Wham Stadium.