Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder said it was a “very, very poor decision” after his team were controversially denied a point from their trip to Middlesbrough.
It was Rudy Gestede’s 21st-minute header that settled the 1-0 home win, the Benin international nodding Patrick Bamford’s chip over Jamal Blackman, but after the match the focus was on the goal that never was.
Two minutes into stoppage time, from a disputable free-kick, United defender Jack O’Connell looked to guide the ball beyond Darren Randolph, with a helpful deflection off of Dael Fry.
But as the travelling fans turned delirious, the linesman cut short their joy.
It seemed midfielder Chris Basham had been adjudged offside but it was difficult for anyone to establish what had really occurred, with the confusion and disappointment hitting United boss Wilder harder than most.
After watching Uniteds long unbeaten run (over 6 months) come to an end in controversial circumstances, Wilder said: “He started off in an offside position but moved back into an onside position and then impeded their centre-half from heading the ball.
“Are we going to just let their centre-half head it clear in the last minute at Middlesbrough when we’re after a result when we’ve been unbeaten for about… three years?
“You just can’t get those decisions wrong.
“I’m not saying we’ve come here and dominated the game, as this is and will be a tough place to come with the players they’ve got and a new manager in place.
“But when we play like we did in the second half I think it was a just reward to get something from the game and that’s been taken away from us by a very, very poor decision.”
Boro boss Garry Monk, celebrating his first three-points of the new season, thought the whole incident was avoidable.
“I’m told it’s the correct decision,” he said. “It wasn’t a foul for the free-kick in the first place, the lad tripped over his own heels.
“We played against a very good side that’s full of confidence and had an exceptional year last year. It was never going to be easy today.
“They’re well organised and well coached so credit to Chris there for what they’re doing – I think they’re going to have a fantastic season.”
On Gestede, who reminded Monk of his ability at a key time as Boro have recently invested millions in new strikers Britt Assombalonga and Martin Braithwaite, the former Leeds and Swansea manager said: “No-one is forgotten in my mind.
“The squad is vitally important and that’s why we have it. We’ve had a big transition with players coming in and going out as we try and shape the squad to what we need.
“An excellent performance and they’re willing each other to do well. That’s the mentality we’re trying to create and it’s important everyone’s ready.”