Alex McLeish picked up his first point as new Nottingham Forest boss on Saturday as Billy Sharp struck an injury-time leveller to ensure a share of the spoils with Crystal Palace.
The Scotsman watched from the directors’ box as his side went down to an early goal from Palace striker Glenn Murray before Andy Reid made it all square with a superb long-range effort on the stroke of half-time.
After the interval, the fiery encounter continued to excite the 23,703 supporters inside the stadium with both sides coming close before Murray put the visitors ahead with a looping header that looked to have won it.
However, Sharp had other ideas and the frontman was on hand to tap home a rebound in the dying moments, earning the Reds a late, late point.
The home side made one change from the team that beat Leeds under former manager Sean O’Driscoll on Boxing Day – Dan Harding replacing Alan Hutton, who was suffering with an illness.
Some fine attacking football was showcased from both sides in the early stages – but it was the Reds that were first to threaten when Reid picked out Dexter Blackstock from the left-wing, only for the striker’s header to be cleared to safety.
However, it was Ian Holloway’s men that took the lead when a good attacking move allowed former Derby County defender Dean Moxey free to cross from the left, finding Murray sliding in at the far post to finish past Reds’ keeper Lee Camp.
And South African midfielder Kagisho Dikgacoi nearly notched a second for the Selhurst Park outfit when his lofted shot took a slight deflection to steer it just inches wide of the post.
Forest looked to get back into the game and Sharp remained a threat in the Palace box – the Southampton loanee forcing away keeper Julian Speroni into a good save before glancing a Radi Majewski cross onto the foot of the post.
Reds’ midfielder Adlene Guedioura then spooned an effort from just past the halfway line well over the crossbar and into the stands, much to the frustration of Reid, who was in space down the left.
Alex McLeish’s men continued to pile the pressure on the Eagles’ defence as the break loomed and eventually got their reward when Reid found space on the left to hit a 25-yard strike that sailed into the goal past Speroni.
After the teams emerged from the tunnel for the second period the Reds kept up their attacking momentum which had seen them end the first half on a high and Chris Cohen’s deflected shot from range forced Speroni into a smart stop.
Soon after the hosts went close once again when Reid worked the ball down the left before firing a cross over for the rising Blackstock – the frontman did well to connect with the ball but his header flew over the bar.
Yet, despite the attacking flair from Forest, the Eagles remained very much in the game and took the lead when Murray added his second of the match and 22nd of this Championship campaign.
Yannick Bolasie’s ball from the right found the striker, and the former Brighton man looped the ball over an advancing Camp and into the net as the visitors regained the lead.
Substitute midfield man Lewis McGugan was looking to impress the new manager and nearly bagged an equaliser for the home side after he rounded two defenders before forcing Speroni into a stretching save.
And in added time the Reds did get their equaliser as Blackstock headed a ball down in the box for his strike partner Sharp, whose effort was pushed against the post by Speroni before falling back to the frontman for a simple finish.
Forest are now just a place outside the play-off positions in 7th place in the Championship table, they sit three points adrift of the top six. In their next game the Reds will face managerless Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park on Tuesday January 1. Kick-off is at 3pm.
Nottingham Forest: Camp, Halford, Ward, Collins(c), Harding, Cohen (Lansbury, 78), Guedioura (Cox, 85), Majewski (McGugan, 64), Reid, Sharp, Blackstock.
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Parr, Bolasie (Garvan, 84), Dikgacoi, Jedinak(c), Zaha (Easter, 72), Murray, Moxey, Ramage, Moritz (Williams, 72), Gabbidon.
Man of the match: Andy Reid
Referee: Mark Haywood
Attendance: 23,703 (Away: 1,800)