If Leicester City went second with a team full of second-string players, the reality was that it was one of the few regulars to keep his place who spared them defeat at Selhurst Park.
Understudies have underpinned Leicester's outstanding away form but, as Brendan Rodgers made seven changes, it was Harvey Barnes, one of the quartet he retained from the draw with Manchester United, who secured them a second draw in three days.
Another late equaliser offered proof of Leicester’s spirit but Barnes nevertheless said: “It’s a chance wasted for us to build on our last two results.”
And, indeed, to capitalise on Crystal Palace’s previous two losses. “We’ll take a point,” said their scorer Wilfried Zaha. “The last couple of games have been tough for us.”
Roy Hodgson celebrates 45 years in management in January. That longevity owes much to a capacity to generate a response to setbacks and, after defeats to Liverpool and Aston Villa by an aggregate score of 10-0, Palace certainly required a reaction.
They got one and, nine days on from the heaviest home defeat in their history, they were eight minutes from a cathartic victory.
“It was important for us to put an end to that bad run,” said Hodgson. “The second half pleased me very much. It almost cost my assistant Ray Lewington a heart attack at half-time to produce that inspiration.”
It threatened to yield victory until Barnes intervened. With a driving run and a low shot, he produced a goal when Leicester appeared to have run out of ideas.
That it was his second strike from outside the box in as many games underlined the difference he can make. Leicester felt too reliant on Jamie Vardy’s goals last season, when no one else reached double figures. Barnes, with eight and the majority of the campaign to come, should provide that second regular source. “He was outstanding,” said Rodgers. “He scored another great goal for us.”
Leicester nevertheless missed Vardy. He has been their away-day specialist as they won six of their first seven matches on the road. He and Youri Tielemans had both scored penalties in that time. But while both had cameos, they watched on from the stands when Kelechi Iheanacho squandered a spot kick.
Leicester’s stand-ins have flourished alongside the regulars in an injury-hit campaign but there were times yesterday when they seemed to have insufficient strength in depth.
Hodgson had changed three of his back four. It brought an improved defensive display, even if Tomkins had grounds to be grateful to Vicente Guaita. The centre-back tripped Luke Thomas, the left-back deputising for the rested Timothy Castagne.
Up stepped Iheanacho but the Palace goalkeeper produced an outstanding save to repel the spot kick. “He practised yesterday and scored five out of five,” Rodgers said. But he missed when it mattered. Palace got a second reprieve when Ayoze Perez’s cross looped up off Mitchell and hit the bar while Iheanacho headed wide.
After trailing for 172 minutes in their previous two games, Palace could enjoy a period of parity. Andros Townsend hooked a shot wide but Palace, muted before the break, were more assertive after it.
Zaha had skied a shot over before he was altogether more accurate with a technically brilliant volley. He was the instigator of the move, with a solo run in the middle of the pitch, and he finished it, meeting Townsend’s deep cross with a precise effort. Perhaps Kasper Schmeichel ought to have done better but a forward often criticised for his goal return now has eight in 14 games this season. “He showed his quality and determination,” Hodgson said.