A HEROIC second half Swindon Town defensive performance was undone by a last minute Ollie Palmer penalty as Phil Brown's men earned a point from their away trip at Crawley tonight.

Town ended the first-half with a comfortable two-goal lead after James Dunne and Keshi Anderson fired Phil Brown’s side into a seemingly comfortable lead.

But the game turned on its head when Toumani Diagouraga and goalscorer Dunne were both shown straight red cards after committing needless lunging late tackles in midfield.

Between both cards, Crawley pulled a goal back through Ollie Palmer on 51 minutes - meaning Swindon had more than 40 minutes of play to hold onto their precious one-goal advantage after eight minutes of injury time were confirmed.

It seemed as though Town had wrapped the three points up when Crawley substitute Josh Payne was sent off with two minutes of injury time remaining. 

But in another late twist, the hosts won a penalty when Marc Richards committed a foul in the area with seconds remaining - allowing Palmer to equalise. 

Phil Brown made two changes to the side that defeated Tranmere Rovers at home on Saturday.

Match-winner Joe Romanski was dropped to the bench with loan signing Sid Nelson replacing the Town teenager while James Dunne was preferred to Martin Smith in the heart of midfield.

The home side made a promising start when Dominic Poleon tried his luck from range on two occasions – the first of which was saved before Diagouraga’s block prevented Vigouroux from pulling off another save.

A misplaced Kyle Knoyle header on eight minutes then granted Ashley Nathaniel-George with an unchallenged chance at goal from just outside Swindon’s area.

Nathaniel-George’s effort was placed just wide of Vigouroux’s left post as Swindon continued to weather the home side’s early storm.

Swindon scored completely against the run of play on 12 minutes when a totally mis-timed pass from Rob Milsom in the direction of goalkeeper Glenn Morris was charged down by James Dunne.

Milsom’s weak back-pass was reached by Morris, but his kick deflected off the returning Dunne before trickling into Crawley’s goal.

Swindon almost doubled their lead three minutes later when Jermaine McGlashan hurried down the right before picking out Olly Lancashire in the centre.

While Lancashire’s effort was heading for Morris’ net, his shot was mis-timed and comfortably palmed away.

There was a moment of panic for Swindon when goalscorer Dunne had to hack clear Filipe Morais’ dangerous free-kick from the left.

Swindon responded on 25 minutes with a chance of their own after Matt Taylor helped earn the visitors a corner following his accurate switch of play to pick out McGlashan, whose attempted cross went for a corner.

Taylor’s corner then met the head of a determined Diagouraga, who flashed his effort just wide of Morris’ right post.

Swindon were presented with an even better opportunity as the game passed its half-hour point.

Some neat link-up play between Doughty and Knoyle granted Town’s right-back with a one-on-one opportunity against Morris.

Morris had to be strong-handed when palming Knoyle’s far-post effort in the direction of Dunne, who scuffed his effort from inside the penalty area as Crawley regrouped with a goal kick.

Knoyle was then called upon at the other end of the pitch when a dangerous cross almost found an unmarked Dominic Poleon in Swindon’s penalty box.

A scrambling block from Knoyle forced a corner though, which Swindon eventually cleared.

Swindon’s persistence in defence paid off on 36 minutes when Keshi Anderson surprised the home side when shooting while marked by three of Crawley’s defenders.

An accurate shot from inside the area beat Morris to his near post as Phil Brown’s side doubled their lead.

Crawley almost pegged a goal back moments before half-time when Nathaniel-George’s pacey cross was met by Morais in the centre.

Morais’ effort crashed off the top of Vigouroux’s crossbar as Town ended the opening half with a two-goal advantage.

Crawley started the second half brightly, working the ball out wide to Francomb – who overhit two crosses while unchallenged.

Swindon were then reduced to 10 men when Toumani Diagouraga was sent off following his late challenge on Rob Milsom.

Diagouraga’s studs were clearly up on Milsom as Town’s holding midfielder had little to say in protest.

The red card injected life into the home side’s performance, and they were quickly rewarded when Ollie Palmer smashed home a close-range effort after the ball pin-balled around Lawrence Vigouroux’s goal line before falling free.

It got worse for Phil Brown’s side when James Dunne was then shown an immediate red card after diving in on Jimmy Smith.

With a two-man advantage, Crawley soon started to pile the pressure on Vigouroux’s goal. Jimmy Smith went close when his curling effort from 20-yards out crashed against the crossbar before going out for a goal kick.

Chances came and went for the home side throughout the next 10 minutes as Harry Kewell’s side understandably dominated play while Brown opted to deploy a 4-3-1 formation.

Francomb again went close when receiving the ball on the edge of Swindon’s 18-yard box as Crawley exploited Town’s weakness in midfield by shifting the ball around the penalty area.

The midfielder’s effort was placed marginally wide though.

Crawley’s continued dominance then saw Steven Alzate make a crucial clearance from a corner after goalkeeper Vigouroux spilled his attempted catch in the six-yard box.

Substitute Josh Payne then forced Vigouroux into making his best save of the night when he unleashed a powerful drive from 25 yards out towards the right corner.

A diving save forced a corner, which Knoyle managed to win a free-kick from.

Crawley then had their best chance to equalise since Town were reduced to nine men when an unmarked Poleon was picked out in the six-yard box with Vigouroux’s goal gaping in front of him.

Poleon’s decision to shoot first time backfired as he blasted his effort over Swindon’s open goal, to the bitter frustration of Kewell on the touchline.

Amid the late drama, Josh Payne was shown a straight red - the night's third - when his late tackle on Steven Alzate brought the Town midfielder down while he searched for a winning goal. 

The free-kick, taken by Taylor, crashed off the underside of Crawley's post. 

There was further late drama when Marc Richards gave the ball away cheaply before committing a foul in the area, gifting Crawley a penalty. 

Palmer stepped up to level the game, Town returning to Wiltshire with a hard-fought point.

CRAWLEY TOWN (4-4-2): Morris; Francomb, Vincelot (Grego-Cox 83), Connolly, Doherty; Morais, Smith (c) (Camara 75), Milsom (Payne 72), Nathaniel-George; Palmer, Poleon.

Substitutes not used: Mershin, Young, Bulman.

SWINDON TOWN (4-5-1): Vigouroux; Knoyle, Lancashire (c), Nelson, Taylor; McGlashan (Alzate 55), Diagouraga, Doughty, Dunne, Anderson (Smith 52); Adebayo (Richards 71).

Substitutes not used: McCormick, Romanski, McCourt, Iandolo.

Referee: Charles Breakspear

Yellow cards - Crawley: Doherty; Town: Nelson, Doughty

Red cards - Crawley: Payne; Town: Diagouraga, Dunne

Attendance: 2,050