COVENTRY will go into the second leg of their play-off semi-final with Poole all-square at 45-45 after a rousing finale at Brandon on Friday.
The Buildbase Bees trailed by eight points with two races to go of an absorbing, and bruising, contest - but Hans Andersen and Danny King came up with two memorable 5-1s to bring the tie back level and turn it into a one-leg shootout on Monday.
Andersen dropped just one point all night in his best Brandon performance of the season whilst King’s late heroics were all the more remarkable as he was twice involved in crashes on the first bend.
And the spirit and determination in the Coventry camp was summed up by Jason Garrity, who rode on despite being left in great pain from an ankle injury - which will need careful monitoring over the weekend.
At the halfway stage of the meeting Bees had moved into a four-point lead, but just as they looked to kick on they were hit by back-to-back 1-5 reverses, forcing them into a drastic late rearguard action.
Skipper Chris Harris was another to ride through the pain barrier, but he was squeezed out of Heat 1 as the Pirates started with a maximum, only for Garrity and James Sarjeant respond immediately in the next as Sarjeant made the start and Garrity bustled past first Kyle Newman and then Paul Starke.
Poole went back ahead in Heat 4 and it could have been another 5-1 but for Andersen’s late pass around the outside on Newman, and Garrity then produced a spectacular first-lap effort to round both Newman and Davey Watt in Heat 5.
Bees then recorded a trio of 4-2s and King was unlucky not to partner Andersen to maximum points in Heat 6 as Maciej Janowski just split them off bend four; whilst guest Freddie Lindgren won a titanic scrap for third place with Dakota North in the next, and in Heat 8 Sarjeant neatly rounded Starke into the third bend as Andersen controlled the race up-front.
But Newman and Kacper Gomolski were both key figures for the Pirates and they managed to ride Garrity and Kyle Howarth out of Heat 9, before a big blow for the Bees as King gated in Heat 10 but hit a rut and came crashing down - with Watt producing an almost miraculous avoidance to prevent more serious damage.
The damage, though, was done to the scoreboard as Watt and Chris Holder raced clear of Lindgren in the re-run, and then in the next race Garrity had no room from gate four and found himself going heavily into the fence on the first bend.
Lengthy treatment was required before Garrity picked himself up to ride in the re-run and produce a second place behind Janowski, with Harris third, whilst both Bees reserves threw everything they could at Newman in Heat 12 but were unable to make it through, after Starke had fallen on turn two.
When Holder and Janowski gated to a 5-1 over Harris and Lindgren in Heat 13, Bees looked certain to be facing a first leg deficit as they trailed 35-43 - but they did come up with a fighting finale.
King was the victim of first-bend bunching in the first start of Heat 14 but in the re-run he made a great getaway from the outside, with Andersen closing down Gomolski inside him - and that 5-1 earned both Bees riders a booking for Heat 15 against the strong Janowski/Holder combination.
With the same gates for the Coventry riders, Andersen got out ahead of Janowski and eased Holder out on the back straight, and although King’s run was briefly blocked he then produced a tremendous blast around the outside on turns three and four to go around both Pirates and square the match.
Coventry boss Gary Havelock said: “I’m sure people thought we were dead and buried after Heat 13, but it just shows the spirit in the camp to go out and get two 5-1s like we did - and if nothing else, that gives Poole something to think about.
“We pulled it back to get a draw, and it’s all on now. We’ve got to go there with belief, and give it to them. It’s now a one-meeting dash, and we’ve got to try to hit them hard.
“The best thing about tonight was the form of Hans, he was absolutely sensational and we need him riding like that at Poole as well if we’re going to have a chance there.”
ELITE LEAGUE PLAY OFF SEMI FINAL, 1st leg COVENTRY 45: Hans Andersen 13+1, Jason Garrity 9+2, Danny King 8+1, Chris Harris 6+1, James Sarjeant 6, Freddie Lindgren 3+1, Kyle Howarth 0 POOLE 45: Maciej Janowski 10+1, Kyle Newman 10, Davey Watt 9+1, Chris Holder 8+2, Kacper Gomolski 8+1, Dakota North 0, Paul Starke 0