Huddersfield were left counting the cost of referee Lee Mason’s change of mind in their 0-0 draw against fellow relegation strugglers Cardiff.
What had been a dreary Premier League affair low on quality produced a major 76th-minute talking point when Mason pointed to the penalty spot after Florent Hadergjonaj had tumbled in the box.
Several Cardiff players rushed towards Mason’s assistant in the corner and the referee soon made his way there for a conversation.
Mason then dramatically reversed his decision and penalised Hadergjonaj for fouling Joe Bennett rather than the other way round, much to the bemusement of Huddersfield manager David Wagner on the touchline.
The bottom line, however, is that the contest will do little to help the two clubs’ respective relegation battles.
Cardiff remain in a healthier position to survive, with an eight-point advantage over Huddersfield, but their failure to fashion an opening worthy of the name against opponents who had lost their previous nine games in all competitions will alarm manager Neil Warnock.
At least Huddersfield stopped the rot after an appalling run of form, and will be encouraged by the fact that they played the better football.
But one point is not of much use in the Terriers’ current predicament, especially with Manchester City, Everton, Chelsea and Arsenal looming into sight on their fixture list.
Jason Puncheon made his first league start for Huddersfield and the Crystal Palace loanee also marked the occasion with a ninth-minute shot.
Puncheon’s low drive fizzed wide but Cardiff were soon forcing the pace and Christopher Schindler, just back from suspension, was cautioned for a cynical foul on Nathaniel Mendez-Laing.
Cardiff had two penalty appeals in the space of three minutes with Philip Billing’s header striking the arm of Erik Durm.
Mason could be forgiven for not pointing to the spot as Durm was only a few yards away from Billing and unable to get out of the way.
But Cardiff had a stronger case when Mendez-Laing tricked Durm and his cross ended with Junior Hoilett falling under Hadergjonaj.
Huddersfield dominated possession after those escapes and control of the game manifested itself with half-chances for Elias Kachunga and Steve Mounie.
Cardiff were short on creativity as their stylish Spaniard Victor Camarasa was policed well and struggled to make an impact.
But Sean Morrison was inches away from touching home Hoilett’s corner with Terriers goalkeeper Jonas Lossl helpless in the back of the net and complaining of a foul that never came.
Cardiff lost Camarasa to injury and, with Huddersfield looking the more likely scorers, broke to see Callum Paterson’s shot deflected over by Christopher Schindler.
The non-penalty decision breathed new life into a game that had been ambling aimlessly towards the final whistle.
Aron Gunnarsson had an effort blocked and substitute Laurent Depoitre’s injury-time header was kept out by Neil Etheridge at the other end, but neither side had the cutting edge to find a winner.
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