Melton Foxes had to settle for a share of the spoils once more against title contenders Barwell in a tough, uncompromising game played in a superb spirit.
Foxes will feel the win should have been theirs, but for a first-half penalty miss by the normally reliable Shaun Smith.
The Foxes were without skipper Joe Nickolls, serving a six-match County FA, hotly disputed by his club, but the early stages were even.
Barwell pushed forward, but were well off the mark with two long-range efforts, while Cameron Ainge’s good run and low cross was scrambled away.
The home side pushed forward and almost led when Lewis Thorpe rose to meet George Wilkinson’s free-kick, but his glancing header was foiled by a magnificent full-length diving save.
Walker and Horobin battled for possession in midfield and the home defence looked solid, but on the half-hour they failed to clear a corner and the Barwell centre-forward rifled made it 1-0 at the second attempt.
Smith sent in a dangerous cross before Cameron Steans screwed a shot wide following another good Foxes move.
And three minutes before half-time, Ainge made a break on the right and fed Smith who was scythed down in the area. The striker took the penalty himself, but saw his low shot saved by the keeper.
Foxes were visibly shaken, but continued to attack after the break. Several corners caused problem and Barwell’s keeper came to the rescue again to touch another goalbound shot over the bar.
Harrison Mayes came on and was soon in the action with a run and cross which flashed across the face of goal.
Mayes swung yet another corner over and Foxes looked certain scorers, but Barwell somehow scrambled the ball away with Smith, Lauchlan and Horobin unable to force the ball home.
After 75 minutes Foxes finally got a deserved equaliser when Adam Lauchlan met another Mayes inswinging corner and sent a powerful header past the keeper.
Seconds later Smith broke through, but lost control at the vital second, and from another corner, Barwell’s keeper was relieved to see a close-range shot find his arms when a goal seemed certain.
Good defensive work by Wilkinson and Kotarba cleared dangerous free-kicks late on, but Melton were still on the attack as the final whistle sounded to end an entertaining match.
The Foxes visit Stoneygate Blues on Sunday.
Foxes: C. McNeight, C. Lovegrove, J. Bates, L. Thorpe, A. Walker, G. Wilkinson, A. Lauchlan, A. Horobin, B. Carroll. S. Smith, C. Ainge, C. Steans, A. Kotarba, H. Mayes.