Young Air Chathams Wanganui batsman Sam Sherriff fell agonisingly short of a century on Sunday evening as injuries to key players forced an already depleted side to scrap for a draw against Horowhenua Kapiti.
Travelling to Levin on the bottom of the Furlong Cup (Hawke Cup qualifier) ladder, Wanganui lost first innings points early on day two but put in a much improved second turn at bat to earn a draw.
Sherriff, a Central Districts under-17 representative, was dismissed for 92 late in the final session after he had helped his side put an outright win beyond Horowhenua Kapiti.
It was much needed after Wanganui handed a 104-run first innings lead to the home side on the stroke on lunch on day two.
With Wanganui bowling first on Saturday, Akash Gill removed Horowhenua Kapiti opener Dion Sanson (2) early on but from there Horowhenua Kapiti took control.
They put on 299 for what ended up being their only turn at bat thanks to a 133-run partnership for the third wicket between Adam Simonsen (88) and Chad Law (78).
When that was finally broken at 185-3 Wanganui started to claim regular wickets with the next six Horowhenua batsmen falling for just 62 runs to be 247-9.
Ben Smith, on his return to the Wanganui side from the Central Districts Stags, was the pick of the bowlers, snaring 4-18.
But Carter Andrews (28) and Keegan MacLachlan (24 not out) managed to put on 52 for the final wicket and put the home side in a good position for first innings points.
By stumps on day one that seemed inevitable as Fraser Bartholomew and Central Stags' Ryan McCone steamrolled the Wanganui top order to leave the visitors at 31-5.
Matthew Simes (45) and Gill (65 not out) batted out the final overs taking the visitors through to 41-5 at stumps.
Wanganui began the second day with more resolve, however, as Gill and Simes stayed in through the first half hour before Gill retired hurt sitting on 25.
Simes was joined by John McIlraith (10), playing his baggy cap game (25 matches), who hit two quick boundaries before being caught off the bowling of McCone.
Simes continued to tick over for Wanganui, helped by a patient Chris Sharrock (13) at the other end, but a half century alluded him as he chipped one into the hands of Andrews off his own bowling.
Wanganui were still trailing by 180 and looking at having to follow on when Gill returned to continue his innings.
With restricted movement and nursing a shoulder injury, the Canadian age group representative settled into a high tempo, smashing five boundaries off one Andrews over as he notched a run-a-ball half century alongside Smith (25) who had also injured his hamstring.
On the stroke of lunch Simonsen snared Smith, leaving Gill Wanganui's top scorer in the first innings and Horowhenua a lead of 104 with two sessions to push for an outright win.
Forced to follow on, Wanganui's openers Kashish Nauhira (10) and Sherriff (92) made a quick start to their second dig but Nauhira was bowled by Bartholomew after a fast 10 off seven balls.
Horowhenua made regular dents in the Wanganui innings, which was 127-6 at one stage, and had a chance of earning a chaseable target.
But Sherriff dug in with Chris Sharrock (55 not out) to put on 68 for the seventh wicket until the opener's solid innings came to an end at 92 from 195 balls including 11 boundaries.
Sharrock continued on though, notching his own half century with Hadleigh O'Leary (4 not out) at the other end.
Wanganui worked through to 214-7 with a lead of 110 when stumps were pulled on the game just after 6pm.
Andy Lock, in charge of the team after the departure of player/coach Charlie Hartley, said it was a fighting performance given the circumstances and a Saturday which was a "very long day that just took its toll".
He said Gill's performance was "solid" given that he was carrying a shoulder injury and that Wanganui were not helped by Smith's injury.
"That held one of our major contributors back," he said.
Wanganui next meet Taranaki later this month before the final Hawke Cup qualifier against Wairarapa.