A fine fightback saw Dover defy their critics and earn an opening-day National League South point against Torquay on Saturday.
They were 2-0 down inside 20 minutes against the promotion favourites having only avoided relegation on the final day last term, with one of their debutants, Chevron McLean, scoring an own goal and skipper Asa Hall doubling the Gulls lead.
But Dover rapidly improved and Zidan Sutherland cut the deficit in the first half before Roman Charles-Cook made it 2-2 after the restart.
There was a nightmare start for Whites who fell behind in the fourth minute at Crabble in largely wet and gloomy conditions.
A left-wing Lewis Collins cross inadvertently went off McLean and past a helpless Billy Terrell.
The visitors’ tails were up and, had it not been for some decent interceptions by centre-half Charlie Naylor, they easily could have caused more early damage.
Dover then created their first opportunity on the 15-minute mark. George Nikaj won a header after a big clearance by Bournemouth loanee Terrell and the ball broke kindly back to him but he dragged inches wide.
At the other end, however, Brad Ash found all kinds of space for Gary Johnson’s side. He dinked Terrell, who’s 20 later in the month, only to see his strike come off the post and be cleared.
But the 19th minute did see the away team double their lead when 36-year-old veteran midfielder Hall stroked home a right-wing cross as visiting players lined up at the far post to convert.
Two minutes later, Naylor nodded an Iffy Allen corner over at the other end. But Sutherland initially looked somewhat isolated, playing slightly ahead of Nikaj and having long balls regularly pumped in his direction.
A Sutherland long-range drive forced a fingertip save from visiting keeper Mark Halstead on 36 minutes after Charles-Cook’s flick-on before Allen hobbled off.
But Dover got one back in the 42nd minute. A long Terrell free-kick caused problems and Nikaj turned and shot, Sutherland adjudged to have got the final touch after the ball had bounced off both posts.
Mitch Brundle’s troops began after the restart the way they had finished the first period, too. Substitute Oreofe Bello’s 48th-minute effort was somewhat luckily deflected off 32-year-old Halstead’s legs and onto the crossbar after Sutherland’s lay-off.
Collins aimed to re-establish Torquay’s two-goal cushion when he sent a free-kick from a good position narrowly over after the hour mark.
Looking to make amends for his earlier own goal, McLean drilled wide from just outside the penalty area.
But the hosts grabbed a deserved equaliser midway through the second period. Sutherland had the pace to turn the Gulls defence and fed right winger Charles-Cook who did excellently to spin his man and score to spark buoyant scenes.
Aaron Jarvis immediately had a golden opening for Torquay but he snapped at his shot and dragged wide while Nick Dembele was introduced on 74 minutes to bring Sutherland’s impressive bow to a close.
Five minutes from time, Hall could have put the visitors back in front, only to miss the target before Dover substitute Dembele flashed a left-wing delivery across goal.
The Gulls could have snatched it right at the death, though, Terrell making a brilliant block to deny Ash a stoppage-time winner.
Three new additions - defenders McLean and John Oyenuga, as well as Sutherland - somewhat surprisingly had come straight into Whites' side.
They were a number of debutants for the home team, including Terrell and former Ebbsfleet and Maidstone player Allen, while experienced midfielder James Dunne captained Dover.
Only Nikaj survived from last term’s line-up for them.
Local lad Ryan Hanson, who left Whites last summer, was on the Gulls bench and was an unused substitute.
Dover Athletic: Terrell, Charles-Cook, Olarewaju, Dunne, Anifowose, Sutherland (Dembele 74mins), Nikaj (Baptiste 82mins), Allen (Bello 38mins), McLean, Naylor, Oyenuga. Subs not used: Young, Ojemen.
Torquay United: Halstead, Lapslie, Hall, Jarvis, Collins (De Silva 66mins), Ash, McGavin (Martin 55mins), Craske, Donnellan, Davies (Moxey 86mins), Tomlinson. Subs not used: Hanson, Lovett.
Referee: Charles Martland.