Akram Moghrabi's 82nd-minute penalty miss compounded more misery for Mohun Bagan as they slipped further away from the title race after they played out a dour stalemate against Chennai City FC at the JL Nehru Stadium in Coimbatore on Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, Minerva Punjab helped themselves to a win, opening a two-point lead at the top of the table as the Mariners remained eight points behind after the thirteenth round.
Raynier Fernandes came in to replace Cameron Watson for the visitors while V Soundararajan made four changes. Sebastian Thangmuansang, Clintu Cletus, Charles Lourdusamy and Alexander Jesuraj made way for Tarif Akhand, Asif Kottayil and new signings Kim Dong-Hyeon and Aleksandar Rakic.
Azharuddin Mallick missed a sitter early on. The youngster only had the 'keeper to beat from twelve yards but shot over after Aser Pierrick Dipanda played him through in the fourth minute of the game.
While Bagan started to mount the pressure, Aleksandar Rakic took it upon himself to impress in his new colours. The Serbian won a free-kick on the edge of the Bagan area with Kingsley Obumneme tripping him. Shilton Paul did well to deny the former Maziya S&RC forward from the ensuing freekick as the custodian dived to his right to save the goal around the half-hour mark.
While Mallick failed to get going after his miss, latest recruit Bimal Gharti Magar was pushed on for his second appearance from the bench. However, it was the hosts that had a chance before the half-time whistle.
Cameron Watson's suicidal backpass to Paul was intercepted by Jean-Michael Joachim who could only manage to hit the side-netting.
While either side failed to create dominating chances in the opposition's box, a flurry of half-chances around the hour mark left a lot to be desired from both sets of forwards.
Soundararajan had to replace Uros Poljanec with Kabir Thaufiq in goal with fifteen minutes on the clock and the goalkeeper delivered the goods when put to test.
Tarif Akhand, who was on a yellow card, fouled Dipanda inside the box in the 81st minute. Referee Akash Jackson Routh however, showed the yellow card to Edwin Vanspaul and pointed to the spot, mistaking him for Akhand while the actual perpetrator remained on the pitch.
Thaufiq crucially saved Akram's effort from 12 yards and while Vanspaul tried to clear the rebound, he was fouled near the corner flag. The referee did not take kindly to the protests and comically produced two more yellow cards in quick succession, giving Vanspaul the marching order.
What ensued was a complete commotion as the Chennai City players crowded the referee to argue with him. The game was paused for a long time as he had to rush to the fourth official to get his act together as members from the Mohun Bagan technical area too made their way towards the referee only to be sent off to the stands.
While the mistake could not be reversed, the game finally started again with twelve minutes of added time being piled upon for the loss of game time, solely for the referee's fault.
Mohun Bagan grabbed a point to stay fourth with 21 points as they travel back home to host Gokulam Kerala FC on Monday. Chennai City up next host Shillong Lajong on Sunday as they stay eighth with twelve points.