Birthday boy Josh Daniels on Friday night rescued a point for Glenavon with a goal of the season contender at Seaview.
The winger celebrated his 23rd birthday by blasting home a wonder strike to keep his team in with a shout of claiming an automatic European qualifying place – they remain six points adrift of Crusaders, but have played one game less.
David Cushley shot the Crues into a first half lead with a fortuitous effort, but that was as good as it got for Stephen Baxter’s out-going Danske Bank Premiership champions.
Daniels’ goal was certainly worth the admission money along, but it has to be said it was a game that will not live long in the memory of both sets of fans – or the BBC television’s armchair audience.
Both clubs were caught up in a kit row, even before a ball was kicked.
Referee Tony Clarke decided the orange Glenavon ‘away’ jerseys clashed with the red and black of their opponents.
Having asked visitors to turn out in the Crusaders’ away kit, which was flatly turned down, the Crues resolved the issue by wearing their white away jerseys.
Following the controversy, the game failed to live up to it’s pre-match billing.
After the early sparring in which both teams hardly laid a glove on each other, Ronan Hale provided the first piece of notable action by testing Johnny Tuffey with a stinging drive following a neat cut-back from Philip Lowry.
It certainly wasn’t pretty stuff. Cushley’s quickly taken short corner kick picked out Rory Hale, who drilled a low shot inches past the post.
But it was the visitors who were almost in front eight minutes before the break.
Josh Daniel whipped in a corner kick from the left which was missed by the in-rushing Andrew Mitchell, but ball came off the thigh of Conor McCloskey, but bounced fortuitously into the gloves of a grateful Sean O’Neill.
The visitors threatened again with Rhys Marshall threading a pass into the patch of Mitchell, but his powerful drive was brilliantly blocked by the body of Rory Hale.
The Glenavon goalkeeper, however, will have nightmares about the shot that beat him seconds later. Cushley picked up a pass from Matthew Snoddy and tried his luck with an audacious low shot from 25 yards that totally caught the former Northern Ireland man unawares, the ball crashing into the back of the net.
Glenavon roared from the blocks in an attempt to repair the damage. Marshall’s free kick somehow found Mitchell at the back post and, after holding off a challenge from Kyle Owens, could only shoot into the arms of O’Neill.
And, the Lurgan Blues were right out of luck on 68 minutes. Marshall’s blockbuster at the back post was brilliantly beaten away by O’Neill and, when the ball fell to Mitchell, his raking drive crashed against the post.
It stung the Crues into action with the lively Cushley leaving Caolan Marron in his wake inside the box before letting fly with a vicious drive that Tuffey did well to flip over the top.
Now surging forward looking for an equaliser, Marshall breezed through the middle before testing O’Neill with a low shot.
But all Glenavon’s hard work was rewarded 12 minutes from time with Daniels’ wonder strike.
McCloskey and Eoin Wearen combined on the right and, when the Dubliner flashed in a low cross, the former Derry City man crashed an unstoppable shot past O’Neill.
CRUSADERS: O’Neill, Burns, Coates, Lowry, Cushley, Owens, Ruddy, Snoddy, McGinley (McGinley 65), Ronan Hale, Rory Hale (Patterson 85).
Unused subs: Doherty, McChrystal, Beverland, Ward, Clarke.
GLENAVON: Tuffey, Marron, Daniels, Marshall, Mitchell (Hamilton 90), Harmon (Stewart 69), McCloskey, Singleton, Garrett, Wearen (Norton 85), Sharkey.
Unused subs: Larmour, Murray, Jenkins, Jameson..
REFEREE: Tony Clarke.