Controversy was found in abundance at Clarence Park on Bank Holiday Monday as St Albans City overcame the handicap of playing for more than half of the National League South derby with Hemel Hempstead Town with just ten-men, as they doubled both their points and goal tally in a highly charged 2-2 draw.
Simon Thomas opens the scoring for The Saints in the opening minute
At the centre of the controversy was referee Chris Oâ€™Donnell, who dismissed City defender Ian Gayle and awarded the visitors a contentious penalty right on half time. Just for good measure a further six players also found their way into the match officialâ€™s notebook.
City manager Jimmy Gray was livid with the two decisions that helped to haul an off-colour Hemel back into the game and reduce the Saints to ten men.
His mood hardly lightened when video evidence suggested that Tudors striker Dennis Oli went down somewhat easily when Gayle put an arm on the experienced forward.
Also, that the ball was bouncing through to goalkeeper Joe Welch out of Oliâ€™s reach, so it could not have been a goal scoring opportunity, only further darkened Grayâ€™s mood.
Hemel made two changes to the side that lost at home to Maidenhead United 48 hours earlier with former Saint Jamal Lowe being granted a recall. Lowe made the most of his opportunity with a stunning strike on 87 minutes that denied City their first win of the season.
St Albans showed five alterations from Saturdayâ€™s defeat at Chelmsford.
Liberian Gus Sow, Frenchman Kevin Krans and Jack Green all came into the midfield while Simon Thomas returned to the attack and Ben Martin replaced the unlucky Darren Locke in the back four.
Scott Thomas and Luke Allen both failed late fitness tests while Billy Medlock and Lewis Hilliard were relegated to the bench.
The match was just 52 seconds old when City took the lead in a league match for the first time this season.
Sow, 15 yards inside the Hemel half, knocked the ball forward to Louie Theophanous who battled for possession but the ball broke loose.
James Comley picked up the pieces but he was tackled by Matt Harriott, unfortunately for the Hemel midfielder his challenge sent the ball towards the edge of the penalty area where Simon Thomas easily turned past City summer trialist Michael Richens and stroked the ball wide of keeper Jamie Butler with his left foot.
The scene was now set for an opening 15 minutes that saw both sides look to get forward as quickly as possible and City so nearly had a second goal when Gayle crashed a header into the crossbar from a Lee Chappell corner but, somewhat harshly, Gayle was penalised for a foul on Butler.
Butler struck the free kick long with Oliver Hawkins heading on for Lowe to run clear of the home defence.
Lowe stayed on his feet when Martin attempted to trip him but his low shot was blocked by the legs of the sprawling Welch.
Hemel relied a great deal on Hawkins extreme height to trouble the City defence and even though he did win a good number of duels with Martin during the first half the Saints former captain generally kept him well shackled.
City proved themselves to be experts at timewasting at set-pieces and throw-ins but overall their play was of a higher tempo than seen during the opening weeks to the campaign.
Quick thinking by John Kyriacou at a throw-in led to Theophanous weaving his way into the penalty area and striking a low ball towards Thomas at the back post only for a simple chance to be extinguished by Ed Oshodiâ€™s well-timed intervention.
Thomas could have put the result virtually beyond doubt just after the half hour mark when two good chances came his way.
From the first, following a cross from the right by Sow, Thomasâ€™ attempted shot somehow went away from the goal while his next effort, from an acute angle, thudded into the foot of the post after Theophanous had glanced on Chappellâ€™s corner from the City right.
A minute before the break Krans marked his home debut with a booking, for persistent fouling, and like a booking Comley collected earlier in the half, it did appear that he had been hard done by.
And Cityâ€™s disappointment in some of Mr Oâ€™Donnellâ€™s decisions hardly eased when he overlooked holding by Ben Herd on Green in the final minute of the half as the City midfielder tried to reach a Krans cross.
As the game moved into a third minute of first half stoppage time, Thomas headed away a corner by veteran Matt Spring and Thomas did the same again when goalkeeper Butler, from inside the City half, sent the ball back into the home penalty area.
This time Thomasâ€™ header was headed back and deep into the penalty area by Richens, and as Gayle and Oli turned the Hemel striker went down most dramatically from, what appeared, a feint touch.
Gayle turned in disbelief to see the referee pointing at the spot and reaching immediately for a red card.
In light of Oâ€™Donnellâ€™s non-reaction to the similar incident just seconds earlier at the opposite end of the pitch it did seem that City had again been on the wrong end of a poor decision.
That said, once Gayle put a hand on Oli inside the penalty area there was always a risk of a bad outcome for St Albans.
As Gayle departed down the tunnel Hawkins stroked the spot kick to Welchâ€™s left to restore equality at the interval.
Young Green was sacrificed at the start of the second half in place of Locke who renewed a long standing partnership with Martin.
Hemel, as expected, pressed hard towards the Hatfield Road goal after the restart and looked to have taken the lead when a Richens shot from some 30 yards bounced up and struck Welch before bouncing loose in the penalty area.
Tudors captain James Potton moved to slot the rebound into the net only for an offside flag against Hawkins, who went towards the ball but did not touch it, to keep the scores level.
After surviving Hemelâ€™s best spell City saw out the rest of the game most impressively with Krans only being denied by Oshodiâ€™s headed clearance.
Hemelâ€™s defending was less certain on 71 minutes when Kyle Connolly failed to control the ball when Butler passed to him and allowed it to run out for a City throw.
Chappell threw the sphere into the penalty area where Martin and Hawkins challenged with the ball bouncing to Krans.
After controlling the ball on his right thigh Krans then lashed a superb shot to Butlerâ€™s left to give City sight of victory with their first two-goal haul of the season.
Two minutes later Hemel replaced Oli with St Albansâ€™ leading goal scorer for the past two seasons, John Frendo. The London cabbie was given a less than welcoming greeting from the terraces upon his return.
A quickly taken free kick and slick passing set up Potton for a clear opening but a sliced shot saw the ball fly comfortably wide.
With just three minutes remaining it looked as though Cityâ€™s exceptional work-rate was to be rewarded with a long overdue victory only for an old boy to gate-crash the party.
Ed Asafu-Adjaye and Harriott worked the ball across the pitch to Connolly who fed Ben Herd wide on the Tudors left.
Herd crossed to the nearside of the penalty area where Lowe brought it down perfectly to allow himself space to turn and drill an excellent left-footed shot across Welch for the equaliser.
Hemel fancied their chances of snatching victory during six minutes of added time but it was St Albans who came closest to securing a deserved win when a six-man move cut Hemel open and created space for Chappell but the City captain, on his weaker right foot after an excellent long run, scuffed his shot well wide.
It would be wrong to single out individuals in a tremendous battling City performance but the pace that Krans and Sow â€“ and particularly the non-stop energy of the latter â€“ bring to the side could be a feature that turns the Saints fortunes around.
St Albans are back in National League South action on Saturday 5 September when they visit Margate, and with their next three games being against sides that occupy three of the four places above them the Saints will be confident of repairing their sorry start to the season.
Scott Thomas and Luke Allen will both be fit for the trip to Kent but Steve Wales and Danny Green will definitely be out while Sam Corcoranâ€™s return will depend on the success of an operation on his left foot that he is due to undergo next week.