Jamie Rainford scored a stoppage time equaliser as 10-man Widnes fought back from 2-0 down to earn a point at Dunston.

The Whites fell two goals behind with just 15 minutes on the clock with both Mark Fitzpatrick and Jack Elliott finding the net.

James Murray halved the hosts’ advantage midway through the half but Widnes suffered a blow when Callum Humphries was shown a second yellow card 10 minutes later.

But Steve Akrigg and Kev Towey’s side rallied and were the better side in the second half, with Rainford’s late equaliser the very least that Widnes deserved.

Murray was one of three Widnes changes as he replaced James Steele who dropped to the bench.

Elsewhere, Jay Roberts and Mike Burke were both only fit enough to make the bench as stand-in skipper Danny Ventre was forced into a makeshift role at right-back, while Alex McQuade returned at centre-half.

The visitors made a promising start but it was Dunston who had the first real effort on goal, but Cameron Terry was equal to Fitzpatrick’s effort.

Fitzpatrick was Dunston’s focal point as he led the line akin to Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy and he opened the scoring on the 12-minute mark.

Humphries conceded a foul on the edge of his own area landing himself in the book. He was punished by the right boot of Fitzpatrick who hit a sublime free-kick into the top corner with Terry well-beaten.

It was 2-0 less than three minutes later. It came in bizarre circumstances as Jack Elliott’s cross-cum-shot caught out Terry and nestled in the back of the net leaving Widnes with a mountain to climb.

The deficit was less than ideal for a Widnes side in the midst of a 332-mile round trip, but in truth, the Whites were the better team for the remainder of the contest.

They were soon level as Shaun Holden engineered space for a cross with a clever overlap around Jack Banister. The delivery was delicious and well-placed for Murray to turn home at the back-post.

Widnes were unfortunate to have a second chalked off for offside moments later despite Rainford appearing to time his run perfectly before driving an effort beyond Jack Dryden.

Rainford would go close moments later as he scuffed an effort wide but Widnes then suffered a blow as Humphries was shown his marching orders for a foul on Fitzpatrick despite appearing to make minimal contact.

Co-bosses Akrigg and Towey reacted with a tactical change as winger Banister was withdrawn as debutant Sam Barnes was brought on to shore up the defence and to see out the first half.

Widnes started the second half well and Ventre was unfortunate not to equalise as his vicious drive went narrowly wide of the upright.

A teasing ball from Murray then narrowly evaded the lively Jennings who had twice earlier robbed Dunston defender Liam Marrs of possession but lacked the killer final ball to punish the home side.

Into the final ten minutes and sensing that Dunston were there for the taking, Akrigg and Towey introduced James Steele from the bench as the Whites switched to three-at-the-back which ultimately proved decisive.

Barnes headed straight at Dryden as Widnes threatened but Terry had to be alert at the other end to make a superb stop to deny a close-range Fitzpatrick snapshot.

You could sense that a Widnes goal was coming, and the equaliser came in the last minute of regular time.

A pass sat up nicely for Rainford to fire a shot on goal that was saved by Dryden, but the ball looped up and was bundled over the line by a combination of bodies, with the Widnes striker credited with the goal despite Barnes appearing to force it home.

Fitzpatrick spurned a gilt-edged chance to win it late on for Dunston, but the point was more than Widnes deserved for a phenomenal effort.

The Whites remain 13th in the Northern Premier League Division One North/West.