The Newcastle Jets are still searching for their first win of the season after squandering a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with a fast-finishing Central Coast Mariners in a typically spiteful F3 derby at Hunter Stadium on Saturday night.
The match had all the hallmarks of a derby fixture with both sides showing plenty of grit and aggression with referee Kris Griffiths-Jones handing out six yellow cards in the Round 4 fixture.
The Jets had the ascendancy in the first half, fashioning a couple of half-chances on goal, but still went to the break locked at 0-0 with the Mariners.
The hosts grabbed their first goal of the season just six minutes after the resumption when fullback Scott Neville poked home after a goal-mouth scramble and doubled their advantage when a Trent Sainbury back-pass found its way into his own net.
But the reigning A-League champions fought their way back through a Marcos Flores penalty before veteran Mile Sterjovski snatched a late equaliser.
The draw sees the Jets jump up to seventh on the A-League table while the Mariners remain in the top four with two more games in the round still to play.
The match started in perfect conditions in front of a healthy crowd of 13,744 and it was an arm wrestle from the outset.
The home side fashioned the first chance on goal in the 15th minute when Adam Taggart broke into space down the left side on the counter attack and squared the ball to Andrew Hoole, who fired a low drive from the edge of the area just wide of the target.
The Jets threatened again when Scott Neville fired a cross into the box where Nathan Burns headed wide of the far post.
Hoole had the only other chance of the half when Neville played the ball back across goal and the Young Socceroo sent a left-foot effort dipping just over the crossbar.
The Jets maintained their drive in the second half and scored their first goal in over 400 minutes of football from a Ruben Zadkovich free kick.
Instead of one of his trademark pile-driving free-kicks, Zadkovich pushed the ball wide to Burns, who squared across the face of goal where Taggart saw his shot smothered by Mariners goalkeeper Justin Pasfield.
But the ball fell to Neville who poked the ball in from six yards out.
Newcastle were gifted their second goal just a few moments later when Pasfield misjudged a Trent Sainsbury back-pass and the ball went under his foot and trickled across the goal line before the keeper desperately attempted to kick it clear.
Mariners coach Graham Arnold went to his bench with Matt Simon and Sterjovski coming on for Nick Fitzgerald and Montogomery and they pegged a goal back after Jets defender Connor Chapman handled a Rose cross in the area.
Flores slotted the ball from the spot before the referee called him back for players encroaching in the area, but the Argentine kept his cool and slotted the ball into the opposite corner to make it 2-1 after 65 minutes.
The Mariners kept applying the pressure and Simon forced a sharp save from Newcastle goalkeeper Mark Birighitti when he climbed high above Jets defender Kew Jaliens to head a Mitchell Duke cross.
The visitors were eventually rewarded for their industry 10 minutes from full-time when they equalised through Sterjovski after a goal-mouth scramble that saw Duke's shot ricochet off the crossbar and to the feet of the former international, who slotted home from an acute angle.
Both sides fought hard to snatch a winner in the final minutes of the match.
Zadkovich forced Pasfield to swat a driving volley, while Duke saw his on-target shot blocked by Chapman but ultimately the Jets and the Mariners had to settle for a share of the points.
Newcastle Jets 2 (Neville 51, Pasfield 57og)
Central Coast Mariners 2 (Flores 64pen, Sterjovski 80)
Crowd 13,744 at Hunter Stadium