TOWN claimed victory with a last-gasp Lee Novak strike after being rocked by 10-man Walsall in an amazing Galpharm showdown.
Lee Clark’s side seemed to be cruising when Jordan Rhodes put them two up in first-half stoppage time after Theo Robinson had opened the scoring with the 22nd-minute penalty which led to the sending off of visiting skipper Mark Hughes for a professional foul.
But the Midlanders turned the game on its head in the most unlikely fashion, with Troy Deeney’s double and a super strike by substitute Alex Nicholls in the 83rd minute.
Lee Clark’s side looked destined for a damaging defeat, but Antony Kay forced home a header from Anthony Pilkington’s 90th-minute corner to level the scores.
Then Novak, playing for the first time in six games after a knee injury, sent the stadium wild by shooting home from 16 yards two minutes into time added on.
It was an astonishing finale to a real roller-coaster of a clash, and the value of the three points was emphasised by news that rivals Colchester had lost 1-0 at Charlton.
Town made two changes, bringing in central midfielder Kay and winger Pilkington for James Berrett and Michael Collins, who is sidelined after finger surgery.
It was Kay’s first start in seven matches after a loss of form and suspension, while Pilkington returned after an ankle injury kept him out against Brentford.
Lee Peltier was ruled out by his ankle problem, with Tom Clarke again deputising at right-back.
Walsall, who came from behind to beat Town 2-1 in the Midlands with a winner from Galpharm old boy Dwayne Mattis back in September, were making their 16th visit to Huddersfield – but still seeking their first win!
As well as Mattis, Holme Valley-based boss Chris Hutchings, himself an ex-Town player, included two others in left-back Jamie Vincent and midfielder Steve Jones.
There was a nervy moment for home supporters in the eighth minute, when Mark Hughes’ powerful header from Julian Gray’s corner was well saved by Alex Smithies only for Darren Byfield to force home the rebound.
However, the striker had clearly used his hand, and was booked for his actions.
Town’s first effort didn’t come until the 12th minute, with Gary Roberts shooting wide from distance, but it sparked a flurry of home chances.
Rhodes and Roberts had shots blocked and Robinson was denied by keeper Rene Gilmartin’s sliding block before the breakthrough came.
Rhodes chased a long ball over the top and after cleverly wriggling goalside of Hughes, was brought down as he shaped to shoot.
Referee David Webb pointed to the spot and showed Hughes a straight red card, with Robinson rifling home the penalty with confidence to chalk up his 14th goal of the season and fifth in the last six games.
Hutchings sacrificed Jones to bring on big defender Clayton McDonald and Walsall showed stubborn resistance, although Rhodes, who flashed a header just over, and Roberts, who cut in and curled a shot only inches too high, both came agonisingly close.
Town finally forced their second goal in first-half stoppage time, with Danny Drinkwater robbing Richard Taundry and setting free Rhodes.
The striker timed his run perfectly to beat the offside trap and drew Gilmartin before slotting the ball home his 22nd goal of the campaign.
Rhodes shot narrowly wide and headed just over while Pilkington had a low drive saved as Town started the second half in search of a third.
But Walsall silenced the home support by scoring twice in five minutes.
Deeney struck lucky for the first, in the 64th minute, with Smithies and Peter Clarke getting in a mix-up over a backpass and the keeper’s kick out rebounding off the Walsall man and into the net.
But there was no disputing the quality of Deeney’s second, and 13th of the season, lashed home at an angle from just inside the penalty area to Smithies’ right.
Rhodes brought a good save from Gilmartin with a low drive from another Roberts cross.
But Walsall were still threatening, and Taundry had a free-kick tipped over before Nicholls volleyed home on the turn from an 83rd-minute corner.
Jeers echoed around the ground – but they were soon to turn to cheers as Kay emerged through a ruck of players to make decisive contact with the ball.
Then Novak, on as a 77th-minute replacement for Rhodes, had the stadium rocking with his 12th goal in Town colours capping an extraordinary evening..Related content