WALSALL 1-1 SHEFF UTDDominant Walsall had to settle for a point after Jose Baxter’s second-half equaliser earned Sheffield United a draw.
The Saddlers bossed the opening period, with Paul Downing and Milan Lalkovic each rattling the woodwork.
Tom Bradshaw’s 51st-minute tap-in put the hosts ahead, but Baxter levelled midway through the second half with a low 20-yard strike.
Dean Smith’s men remain third in League One, with 33 points from 17 matches.
Walsall showed one change from the side that beat Fleetwood a fortnight ago, with James O’Connor coming in for Matt Preston.
The Saddlers threatened first on four minutes, when George Evans’ long-range curler was palmed away by United keeper George Long.
Nigel Adkins’ Blades – the pre-season promotion favourites - were next to go close, with Baxter heading over from Bob Harris’ deep cross.
The home side began to find their stride, with Bradshaw lifting an audacious lob just wide after latching onto Romaine Sawyers’ long pass.
Walsall were now on top and really should have taken the lead shortly after but the impressive Long produced an incredible triple save.
He first parried Kieron Morris’ fierce low drive and then reacted quickly to block Bradshaw’s follow-up, before turning away Sawyers’ first-time strike.
It was one-way traffic.
On 26 minutes, Evans span superbly away from three players before testing Long with a stinging shot from distance.
The relentless Saddlers were outplaying their opponents but just couldn’t find a way past an inspired Long.
And even when the Blades keeper was beaten, the woodwork – twice - came to United’s rescue before the break.
First, Morris’ deep corner was missed by Long but Downing’s header cannoned against the outside of the post.
And just moments later, Lalkovic crashed a blistering 25-yard drive against the top of the bar as the visitors’ goal continued to live a charmed life.
HALF-TIME: WALSALL 0-0 SHEFF UTD
The second period began in a similar vein, with captain Adam Chambers firing wide from the edge of the box after being teed up by Bradshaw.
Walsall were playing some of their finest football of the season and on 51 minutes, they grabbed the goal their superiority merited.
Sawyers played a neat one-two with Evans before crossing low for the sliding Bradshaw to tap home for his tenth goal of the campaign.
It was no less than the Saddlers deserved - yet Bradshaw’s goal served only to spark Sheffield United into life.
Etheridge had to be at his best on 56 minutes, when he made an excellent finger-tip stop to turn Adams’ low drive behind.
Moments later, Adams went down under a challenge from Etheridge but the visitors’ penalty appeals fell on deaf ears.
Walsall responded with in-form midfielder Evans – with three goals in his previous four matches – firing an angled attempt wide of the far upright.
But the much-improved Blades pulled level on 66 minutes.
Ex-Everton man Baxter picked up possession just outside the area and drilled an accurate left-footed shot into the bottom corner.
It was now end to end, with both teams pushing for a winner in a thrilling conclusion to an absorbing contest.
Downing swept over while Long thwarted substitute Anthony Forde, who then curled a 20-yard free-kick a whisker wide.
United were a threat themselves, with Baxter’s firm right-footed strike forcing Etheridge into a fine one-handed save.
Adkins’ men went close to finding a decisive goal with a minute of normal time remaining.
Adams controlled Kieron Freeman’s long ball but Etheridge spread himself superbly to block the striker’s shot with his chest.
The drama wasn’t over.
O’Connor lashed wide for the hosts in added time, with Long then preventing an own goal to ensure the spoils were shared.
FULL-TIME: WALSALL 1-1 SHEFF UTD
Team: Etheridge, Demetriou, O’Connor, Downing, Henry, Chambers, Evans, Lalkovic (Cook 81’), Morris (Forde 77’), Sawyers, Bradshaw.
Subs: Taylor, Baxendale, MacGillivray, Preston, Flanagan.
Attendance: 5,780 (1,267 Sheff Utd supporters).