Sheffield Wednesday brought a seven-match losing run to an end with a draw against Huddersfield Town, but a disastrous Callum Paterson own goal left their Championship survival chances looking ever bleaker.
Darren Moore earned his first point as boss but it looked like it would be the win they so desperately needed when Josh Windass smashed them into a first-half lead.
But, in a Yorkshire derby of few chances, the lead slipped from their grasp when a Keiren Westwood save inadvertently deflected into the net off Paterson.
That gifted Huddersfield a point in their own survival battle, taking them 10 clear of the relegation zone, while Wednesday are now nine points adrift with just 10 games left to play.
Story of the match
It was an important derby clash for both teams, especially the hosts, and it told in a tight, nervy opening. Huddersfield had most of the possession and looked slick in moments early on, Duane Holmes having an effort blocked by Liam Palmer and Fraizer Campbell unsuccessful in a penalty appeal after their most dangerous build-up play, but they were largely frustrated by solid organisation.
Sheffield Wednesday’s threat was more likely to come on the counter and from long balls, and although they lacked quality that approach still yielded some of the better chances. Kadeem Harris’ missed back-post header from a Windass cross was a warning sign, while the same player also had a shot denied by Campbell.
It was clear that any goals would be precious in this kind of encounter, and the opener certainly felt priceless for Wednesday. Jordan Rhodes created it with a hooked pass behind the defence, Windass outpacing Naby Sarr to latch onto it and run clear before lashing a powerful strike beyond Ryan Schofield.
The home side should also have had a penalty when Rhodes was brought down in the box by Richard Keogh, but Huddersfield escaped to the break and Carlos Corberan changed tack with a switch from a back three to four.
It made little difference to the pattern of play after the interval though and, if anything, chances became even rarer for both. Still Wednesday closely guarded their penalty area from invasion by an unimaginative Huddersfield, and still they had a fleeting threat of their own, though Windass was denied by his own team-mate when Rhodes got in the way of his effort.
In the end, the visitors’ route back into the match came from a set piece, and a very scrappy one at that. A deep Isaac Mbenza free-kick was nodded towards goal by Sarr at the back post and goalkeeper Westwood looked to have the situation covered, but his save rebounded off substitute Paterson in close attention and tricked into the net.
That made the closing stages a little more open but there was still only one more good chance created, and it came to the man most desperate to make amends as Paterson was played in by Elias Kachunga, but Schofield was quickly off his line to stand big and deny him. Lewis O'Brien had two shots blocked in added time but it would finish a draw.
Owls set for League One
There are still 10 matches left of the season, and yet it is simply impossible to make a convincing case for Sheffield Wednesday finding a way to beat the drop.
Moore’s appointment just over a fortnight ago was intended to be the catalyst after the bounce under caretaker Neil Thompson fizzled out, and while his four matches in charge so far have brought small signs of improvement in areas, there has been nothing near the kind of turnaround in performances that is required to haul the club out of the dire situation it is in.
Their showing against Norwich City last Sunday was, in the first half at least, the best for some time, and there were more positive signs at times here too. There was a real solidity about them and they were unfortunate not to keep a clean sheet, while there was also more purpose to their direct play. But it is nothing like enough to suddenly spark the kind of winning run they now need.
That the style has in the main remained the same shows that Moore needed far more time to be able to implement the football he would like to play. In truth, it will take a considerable squad overhaul over a number of transfer windows, a process that is likely to now take place with Wednesday as a League One club.
Corberan will see the summer
In contrast, this point and the three-match unbeaten run Huddersfield are now on make it increasingly likely that their summer business can take place as a Championship club, and with Corberan still at the helm.
After a successful first half of the season under the Spaniard revolutionising their style, the new year has brought difficulties, often struggling for the energy and intensity that is key to their way of playing, and seeing defensive frailties exposed more often as a result.
But if safety is assured soon enough as now looks likely, Corberan will have another season to reignite their development. Key to that will be recruitment that suits his needs, most noticeably in finding players who can provide the regular creative spark that was badly lacking in this contest as Huddersfield struggled to make effective use of their possession.
More comfortable ball-playing defenders will help moves develop more quickly from the back, while midfield is a key area to improve as they cannot rely on the full-backs to always provide the link to the attack. While O’Brien’s place should remain assured, Juninho Bacuna offered very little here and highlighted the need for a real playmaker.
Man of the match: Jordan Rhodes (Sheffield Wednesday)
A very effective shift up front from the re-energised centre-forward, who created the goal for Windass, should have earned a penalty and led the way in Wednesday's pressing and organisation.