Lewes 2, Eastbourne Borough 2.

Andy Atkin scored deep into stoppage time to cap another great Eastbourne Borough comeback and leave Lewes boss Steven King fuming with the referee.

Trailing 2-0 going into the last five minutes Borough's unbeaten league run appeared to be over in this top of the table Conference south clash at the Dripping Pan.

But Matt Smart halved the deficit with what appeared to be no more than a consolation and then Atkin scrambled home an equaliser in the dying seconds to salvage a 2-2 draw While Borough boss Garry Wilson was left to praise the spirit of his title challengers, rival manager King questioned why referee Warren Atkin played six and a half minutes of injury time.

He said: "Ninety-six minutes - where did that come from? I asked the referee what that was for, because their trainer came on once, we only made one substitution and they made two. I cannot understand it.

"I can't accept the second goal in that manner, with the overtime. As far as I am concerned we had won the game.

"It is gutting because I think we deserved to win the game. They went to the end as they always do and you must credit them for that, they played the percentages.

"Nothing has changed but we would have been nine points ahead and we would have thoroughly deserved to be."

For the neutral this was a cracking game in front of a record league attendance at Lewes.

The kick-off was delayed 15 minutes to let in a crowd of 2299, which for the record was, exactly, the combined total of the gate figures from the two games between the sides last year.

That shows how far these two sides have come and what a tremendous battle they are enjoying at the top of Conference south.

This clash had been long-awaited by the two sets of fans but - just like the league this year - there was nothing between them for the first 35 minutes as defences dominated.

The game then exploded into life as Tom Davis' goalbound shot was blocked for a corner from which Paul Booth sent a header goalward only for Borough defender Neil Jenkins to somehow clear from under his crossbar amid claims the ball had crossed the line.

The visitors' response was immediate as Akin got in behind the Lewes defence but goalkeeper Steve Williams saved at the expense of a corner.

Another goalline clearance, this time by Lewes' Dale Binns from Atkin's header, kept the game goalless but not for long as the deadlock was broken two minutes before the interval as Jenkins chopped down Andy Drury and Booth converted from the penalty spot.

When Booth scored again 18 minutes from time, shooting low past Hook from just inside the penalty area, the game looked up for Borough.

Hope came with Smart's shot in-off the post four minutes from time, then they were handed a man advantage when Jay Conroy was sent off for a second bookable offence.

Still Lewes seemed to be hanging on until Adam Wilde delivered a corner from the right which flew off a defender against the near post and Atkin nodded in the rebound.

In the context of the title this result changes nothing as Lewes remain six points clear of Borough who have two games in hand.

But the initiative is marginally shifted in Borough's favour ahead of the return match at Priory Lane on New Year's Day.

Unlike most in the crowd, Borough boss Wilson was disappointed with the game but delighted with the character his side showed.

He said: "To come back like that more than once this season shows we have got spirit in abundance. We keep doing it and you can't buy that, you can't coach it, it is something we have built up over the season.

"It was a disappointing game. Both halves ended in a flurry with a little bit more excitement for the supporters. I think the second game will be a much better game, a much more open game.

"One game won't determine which side will win the league. The picture hasn't changed. We have just got the away game out the way against the team who are top of the league at the moment and the home one to enjoy."

Lewes: Williams, Conroy, Barness, Davis, Robinson, Simpemba, Drury, Wormull, Groves (Legge 90), Booth, Binns. Subs not used: Holloway, Duncan, Cade, Kennett.

Eastbourne Borough: Hook, Lovett, Jenkins, Smart, Austin, Pullan, Harding (Budd 79), Armstrong, Atkin, Tait, M.Crabb (Wilde 73). Subs not used: Ramsay, Baker, Maynard.

Referee: Warren Atkin.

Attendance: 2299.