LOAN signing Pawel Abbott became an instant hero by rescuing a point for Town in one of their most woeful performances of the season.
Only five minutes remained when the Preston frontman latched onto an Andy Booth knock-down just outside the box and lashed a brilliant equaliser past diving keeper Ryan Clarke.
It was much more than Town deserved on a night when they were battered by a plucky, hungry and highly-motivated Rovers side, fresh from a home mauling to Darlington and being booed off by their own fans.
And the first person to buy Abbott a celebratory drink was keeper Phil Senior, whose usual array of excellent saves were eclipsed by a catastrophic error to let Graham Hyde's 20-yard volley slip through his gloves for a Rovers lead on 68 minutes.
It was the sort of mistake which could easily have cost the game, because Town were appalling going forward and, at that stage, hadn't created a single shot on target.
Second-best to Hyde in midfield - despite the lung-bursting efforts of Jonathan Worthington - Town were constantly under pressure at the back and it was a miracle they survived as long as they did.
"We were out-fought and out-battled and I would have had no complaints if we had lost the game," said manager Peter Jackson, who stuck with the same starting line-up which won at Torquay but sent on Abbott for Lee Fowler at half time.
"I was delighted for Pav to score and make such a good start and, had he tucked away the chance he had in the final minute, he would have been a real hero by winning it for us.
"We really didn't deserve a point, though, never mind a win, so we've got to be very happy to get four points from two very tough away games."
On the error for Rovers' goal, Jackson added: "I said to Phil afterwards that he has earned us a lot more points this season than he has cost us, so he has just got to put it down to experience and bounce back.
"He is very disappointed, but he has kept us in a lot of games this season, he has made key saves and his record is good.
"Here, he got away with one fumble in the first half when their lad (Adam Barrett) fired over when he should have scored, and he let the goal slip through, but Phil has made some tremendous saves all season and he had a couple of good ones in this game as well."
The first was in first-half stoppage time when Barrett launched himself at a Hyde cross and arrowed a header for the roof of the net, but Senior sprang acrobatically to tip the ball over the bar.
Then, in a frenetic start to the second half in which Rovers forced a string of corners, Dave Savage thought he had scored from 12 yards out but Senior somhow clawed his effort around his righthand post for a corner.
Senior was then relieved to see Ijah Anderson's shot from the next corner deflected wide, while the keeper got an undetected touch on Christian Edwards' volley in the next attack which rattled against the bar.
At that stage, Town's magnificent following of 496 had had precious little to cheer.
Booth failed to spot Worthington unmarked on the six-yard line with 31 minutes gone, while the big striker fired wide from the edge of the box 12 minutes later from the clearest Town opening of the half.
Rovers adopted a shoot-on-sight policy with strikers Lewis Haldane and Junior Agogo trying their luck from range, Barrett missing when it was easier to score and Town skipper Efe Sodje getting away with a trip on Agogo which looked suspiciously like a penalty.
Rovers, 17th in the form table to Town's second, continued to reverse that statistic in the second half, although Abbott showed himself to be a willing linkman from the early stagesand played a pass which almost released Booth.
With Tony Carss, Danny Schofield and the two wing-backs struggling to exert much influence in attack, Town had to rely on Worthington's efforts, not only to mop up but to prompt as well.
He was a beacon of effort and ingenuity amid the darkness of Town's trials, and Worthington refused to give in even when Town fell behind.
In fairness, neither did his colleagues and that's why Abbott was able to salvage some reward with a swerving, dipping volley which will live long in the memory.
It would have been a massive injustice to Rovers had Town completed a second successive double, but keeper Clarke - who replaced chest-injury victim Kevin Miller just before the game - had to race from his area to head clear from Abbott, who then lashed a cracking drive from Jon Newby's long pass which the keeper did well to block.
At the final whistle, though, it was Town who were wearing the smiles.
If they can pick up points on their travels when playing as poorly as this, it has to be a good sign, but Jackson will be keen to see a massive improvement against Lincoln at the McAlpine on Saturday, otherwise it could be Town on the wrong end of a double.
Game guide: Nathan Clarke
TOWN'S in-form centre-back admitted they deserved nothing from the game and was delighted with a point at the Memorial Stadium.
The 20-year-old defender, who netted Town's winner at Torquay on Saturday with his first goal of the season, felt four points from two long away trips was pleasing but knew in his heart of hearts it could have been better.
"We really did have to grind out a result because we never looked like getting one," said Clarke.
"The gaffer went mad at half time and he was right. We should have played a lot better and, if we had, we would have been going away with the three points.
"In the first half, Rovers were winning every second ball in midfield and that didn't help us at the back.
"We were fortunate to go in 0-0 at half time because Hyde was running things and he's that experienced he's almost on crutches. We needed to get on our toes and that's why the gaffer sent on `Pav' to help Boothy."
Clarke felt loan signing Pawel Abbott, who grabbed a late debut goal, did well for the team.
"Phil Senior has been outstanding in virtually every game and it's disappointing their goal will be put down to a handling error, but Phil will keep his chin up and be strong," said Clarke.
"As a team we just didn't play well, but `Pav' pulled an equaliser out of the bag for us and we've got to be very happy with a point.
"Bristol Rovers were well beaten at home on Saturday by Darlington and they came out and had a real go at us. They put us on the back foot and we had to try and deal with that.
"It was great to get the equaliser so close to the end and, in stoppage time, Pav might have gone on and won it for us but the keeper made a brilliant save."
Superb performance of endurance in a Town team struggling from first whistle to last. One of few players to commit himself forward in the first half, he raided as often as possible in the second while catching the eye with his excellent defensive efforts. Gritty and committed.
Town looked out for the count until the ball dropped nicely for Pawel Abbott just outside the box with five minutes left. Stand-in keeper Ryan Clarke hadn't had a save to make, but he could do nothing to keep out Abbott's dipping drive for the equaliser.
Subs used: Rovers: None. Town: Abbott for Fowler HT, Newby for Sodje 80.
Subs not used: Rovers: Uddin, Quinn, Hodges, Greaves, Williams. Town: Edwards, Mirfin, Giles.
Referee: Andre Marriner (Birmingham).
Scorers: Rovers: Hyde 68. Town: Abbott 85.
Bookings: Rovers: Hyde. Town: Sodje, Clarke.
Shots on target: Rovers: 7 Town: 3.
Corners: Rovers 8 Town: 1.
Caught offside: Rovers: 1 Town: 1.
Free-kicks awarded :Rovers 19 Town: 11.
Attendance: 6,262 (Away: 496).