Cardiff City’s Lee Tomlin denied Sheffield Wednesday going top of the Sky Bet Championship with a controversial equaliser in a 1-1 draw in Wales.
The Bluebirds substitute earned a soft free-kick when he ran into the Owls’ Massimo Luongo, then – while Aden Flint stood offside and jumping in front of goalkeeper Cameron Dawson – Tomlin curled home a stunning free-kick to leave a dominant Owls side leaving Cardiff with just a single point following the 1-1 draw.
Kadeem Harris looked to have come back to haunt Cardiff when he created Julian Borner’s first-half goal.
But Tomlin stopped Garry Monk’s men from joining West Brom at the top of the Championship table when he curled in his fine set-piece with three minutes remaining.
Monk has been reaping the rewards of Harris’s free transfer to Sheffield Wednesday from the Welsh capital.
The winger had scored two goals and provided an assist since joining Wednesday and was out to give his former employers another reminder of his talents on his return to Cardiff City Stadium.
Harris sent an early warning when he fired a half-volley over the crossbar, however, the Owls winger did not need a second invitation to snatch the initiative at his former home as he created the opener after 19 minutes.
Barry Bannan laid the ball off to Harris on the angle of the penalty area after his corner was only half-cleared.
Harris stepped on the accelerator to leave Marlon Pack chasing his shadow and sent a curling effort towards the far post.
The ball may have been heading for the back of the net, but as Neil Etheridge dived to his left, Borner stuck out a leg and diverted the shot away from the Cardiff goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
It was the German’s first goal since joining Wednesday on a free transfer from Arminia Bielefeld in the summer.
Scotland striker Steven Fletcher was next to test Etheridge moments later as the visitors piled on the pressure in search of a second, prompting Warnock to take drastic action.
The Cardiff boss sent striker Danny Ward on in place of Leandro Bacuna with only 34 minutes on the clock.
Monk’s men continued to press forward despite Cardiff’s early change and got another opportunity from 20 yards when Sean Morrison tripped Sam Hutchinson.
Harris lined up the free-kick and smacked the angle of the post and crossbar with a curling effort that had Etheridge beaten.
Cardiff survived until the interval but were on the back-foot again after the restart. Some heroic defending from Aden Flint and Morrison ensured the Owls’ lead stayed at a single goal, before the hosts finally started to threaten.
Ward had Cardiff’s first shot on target after 70 minutes before Josh Murphy’s deflected cross looped over the head of Dawson – a late stand-in after goalkeeper Keiren Westwood was injured in the warm-up – and flashed just past the post.
But the equaliser finally came after Tomlin dusted himself off after he tangled with Luongo and sent a curling effort into the corner from 25 yards out to earn a point.
Monk was annoyed with referee Keith Stroud and his officials for missing the giant distraction.
“We are frustrated that we didn’t get the win because we had enough chances to make it comfortable,” he said.
“The first 50 or 60 minutes was exactly what we wanted. We didn’t allow them to turn the game into a physical scrap, which is what they wanted.
“But we just didn’t have control in that final period, although I am disappointed with the goal. If it had been a legitimate goal, fair enough, but I am told it wasn’t even a foul for the free-kick.
“Then, they had one of their players doing star jumps, trying to distract our keeper. How they missed that, I don’t know - because it’s not hard to spot - a 6ft 5in player doing star jumps. But there we are - it is what it is.
“But there are a lot of positives to be moving forward with, the lads dug in, put their bodies on the line and showed great spirit when they had to in that last 30 minutes.”
The draw leaves the Owls in sixth spot, two points behind leaders West Brom, ahead of back-to-back home games next week against Stoke City and Leeds United.
Cardiff City: Etheridge, Peltier, Morrison, Flint, Bennett, Bacuna (Ward 34), Pack, Ralls, Mendez-Laing (Whyte 76), Glatzel (Tomlin 76), Josh Murphy. Unused substitutes: Smithies, Paterson, Nelson, Hoilett.
Sheffield Wednesday: Dawson, Palmer, Iorfa, Borner, Fox, Hutchinson, Reach, Luongo, Bannan (Nuhiu 73), Harris (Murphy 79), Fletcher. Unused substitutes: Lee, Pelupessy, Thorniley, Odubajo, Forestieri.
Referee: K Stroud (Hampshire).