Blackburn striker Adam Armstrong struck a last-minute equaliser to snatch a 2-2 draw at Cardiff in the Championship.
A mistake from Bluebirds goalkeeper Alex Smithies allowed Armstrong to score his first goal for the visitors after Will Vaulks gave Mick McCarthy’s team the lead with a free-kick in the first half.
Joe Ralls came off the bench and looked to have sealed victory against the run of play, but Armstrong completed his double in the 90th minute to leave City nine points off the play-off places with just five games to play.
McCarthy made four changes to his side after he suffered his first major setback as Cardiff manager with Easter Monday’s 5-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday.
Smithies endured a tough return to the side after two months on the bench at the expense of Dillon Phillips, who impressed after Smithies suffered a head injury against Bristol City, while Perry Ng was included at right wing-back and Josh Murphy and Harry Wilson came into an attacking line-up in place.
Blackburn manager Tony Mowbray made a pair of changes to the side beaten by Bournemouth last time out, bringing in Lewis Travis and Sam Gallagher for Tyrhys Dolan and Joe Rothwell.
It has been more than a month since Wales striker Kieffer Moore scored for Cardiff, but he had two early chances to end his goal drought.
The first came after he surged past Darragh Lenihan into the box, only to be denied by a last-ditch tackle from Tom Trybull.
He dragged a half-volley wide moments later with the goal gaping, but the Cardiff pressure told in the 27th minute after Moore was brought down on the edge of the box.
Wilson looked as if he was going to strike the resulting free-kick, but he back-heeled the ball for Vaulks to shoot low into the bottom corner.
But Blackburn levelled in the 43rd minute after a Smithies mistake. Armstrong raced in behind Ciaron Brown and shot low straight at the Cardiff goalkeeper, but Smithies failed to gather and watched the ball hit the back of the net.
Blackburn struck the woodwork three times in the second half as they went in search of a winner.
Sam Gallagher and Bradley Johnson both hit posts before Barry Douglas rattled the crossbar, but it was Cardiff who scored to seemingly reignite their promotion dreams after 70 minutes.
Substitute Ralls got a toe to the ball to divert Thomas Kaminski’s clearance into the path of Wilson, who played the ball back for Ralls to calmly side-foot home.
But Armstrong cut inside Aden Flint and stabbed the ball past Smithies seconds before the game entered stoppage time to steal a share of the points and dash Cardiff’s Premier League hopes.
What the managers said…
Cardiff’s Mick McCarthy: “I’ve not mentioned the play-offs on purpose since I’ve been here. We’re nine points adrift, with five games to go, so it would require an unlikely set of events. I know we had a great start when I came in. Everything was going well, but I was never fooled to think we were one of the best teams in the league. We were just having one of the best runs in the league.
“The players were very disappointed at the lateness of both goals, but certainly the equaliser in the second half. We should be able to hang on to that. Everyone is feeling the same way, they’re all sick about it. I don’t know the other results, but I thought even before today, eight points adrift with six games to go, was an unlikely sequence of events. Whether we won all our games or not, the other teams are capable of winning theirs. All we can do is look after our games and performances and results.”
Blackburn’s Tony Mowbray: “Adam Armstong is a goalscorer and that’s the bottom line, you give him an inch, he’ll score a goal. He should have scored in the first minute, but he’s a bit rusty. It’s not like you can push a button to get him back to where he was.
“He may have scored three or four on another day if he was up to speed. But he’s helping the team compete in every way he can. We’re disappointed, as a team we know we have to win these games, in this recent run that’s been the case with half of these games really. We’ve dominated most of the games we’ve had but Adam Armstrong hasn’t been able to score, but today Adam got back to what we know he can do.”