EAST Thurrock are in the hat for tomorrow’s draw for the FA Cup first-round proper after a late own goal from their former player Max Cornhill earned them a 2-2 draw at Chelmsford City and set up a replay at Rookery Hill on Tuesday night.
The Rocks got off to a great start when Higgins gave them an early lead when he deflected home Ross Parmenter’s shot.
But the hosts levelled two minutes before the break when David Bridges scored from close range, and it looked like they’d won it when Kenny Clark powered home a header from Anthony Cook’s 88th minute free-kick.
But the Rocks rallied and grabbed an equaliser deep into 10 minutes of stoppage time when Cornhill inadvertently prodded home a low Kris Newby free-kick.
Cook headed against the bar in a grandstand finish but Rocks held on to set-up a mouth-watering replay.
David Bridges fired wide for the hosts when Rocks failed to deal with a third minute corner - it was a replica of the move which would see him equalise two minutes before the interval.
But it was the visitors who had the better of the first half, and they took a 13th minute lead when Parmenter had a shot from the edge of the box which Higgins redirected home.
Rocks continued to press the ball all over the park and take advantage with quick counters which saw Reiss Gilbey blaze over and then Parmenter force Stuart Searle to turn his drive around the post.
Hakeem Araba had a good chance on 38 minutes, but he dragged wide, and two minutes before the break Bridges swept home the equaliser through a crowd of legs after the ball arrived at his feet from an uncleared corner.
And that sparked an action-packed end to the half which saw Rocks right-back Ryan Sammons’ spectacular drive drift past the post, before Ishmael Welsh volleyed wide on the stroke of half time.
The visitors made a bright start to the second half and Higgins rounded keeper Searle and had a shot hacked away, before Newby hit a shot over with the outside of his right foot.
Former Grays man Jamie Slabber curled a shot against the bar - but only after a blatant shove of Simon Peddie - which the officials somehow missed.
Ruel won the ball well and swapped passes with Higgins before dragging a shot wide, and then Higgins produced a similar effort when played in by Gilbey.
There was a lengthy delay with quarter-of-an-hour to play after a clash of heads between Rocks keeper Richard Wray and Clarets midfielder Dave Rainford; both were forced to retire hurt.
It was a very even conclusion to the match with Araba stabbing a good chance wide after Newby’s lofted ball caused mayhem, and then Slabber just failing to connect with an inviting cross from sub Robert Edmans.
And then the hosts took a late lead as Sammons’ foul on Welsh earned him a yellow card and gave the hosts a free-kick on the left touchline.
Cook produced a delicious delivery which former Thurrock man Kenny Clark headed down and in to send the majority of the 902 crowd wild.
The was some hope when the fourth official indicated an additional 10 minutes of stoppage time.
But after Edmans had flashed a shot wide, Rocks levelled when Newby’s low free-kick from the touchline was put into his own net by Cornhill.
There were some terrifying late scares for Rocks as Clark’s downward header was smothered away by sub keeper Jamie Riley, and then Cook headed against the bar from Clark’s head back from the resulting corner.
East Thurrock (4-4-2): Wray (Riley 76); Sammons, Peddie, Harrison, Stephen; Newby, Gilbey, Parmenter (Collins 94), Ruel (Gorbell 96); Araba, Higgins.
Chelmsford City (4-5-1): Searle; Miller, Tann (Brindley 80), Clark, Palmer; Simmonds (Edmans 66), Cornhill, Rainford (Cook 75), Bridges, Welsh; Slabber.
ECHO MOM: Reiss Gilbey (East Thurrock).