Ebbsfleet stunned National League leaders Chesterfield by taking a deserved point on their travels on Saturday.
The Fleet ended Chesterfield’s perfect league record in 2024 - they had won seven in a row in the calendar year - and thoroughly deserved to return to Kent having taken another step towards safety.
Interim head coach Danny Searle, not surprisingly, named an unchanged team following last week’s goalless draw with Oldham.
Chesterfield were just seven wins away from securing the title and with 15 wins and a draw from 16 home games, it was seemingly a forgone conclusion against a side in the relegation zone.
But that theory was quickly thrown out of the window by Ebbsfleet's blistering start.
They were ahead after just 41 seconds when Omari Sterling-James' ball over the top set up Rakish Bingham, who cut inside Tyrone Williams and brilliantly arrowed his shot into the bottom corner beyond keeper Harry Tyrer from the edge of the box.
It was a great start by the Fleet but old habits die hard and they were guilty of overplaying at the back on 13 minutes when Luke O'Neill's clearance was blocked but skipper Josh Wright was able to rescue the situation.
That said, just two minutes later Ebbsfleet's ability to pass the ball out from the back created an opening at the other end. Toby Edser - full of running again - ran from halfway and ignored the option of Bingham before shooting over the bar from an angle just inside the area.
Edser was needed to clear a Branden Horton cross at the other end as the Chesterfield left-back started to create problems for the visitors before Will Grigg's effort was turned away for a corner by keeper Mark Cousins.
Another wayward pass, this time by Declan Skura, presented the ball to the hosts but O'Neill was back to clear.
Within a minute Bingham and Sterling-James combined to set up Dominic Poleon but, having turned former Fleet defender Jamie Grimes, his low shot went narrowly wide of the upright from a difficult angle.
Ebbsfleet - as they were at Bromley over the festive period - were the better team in the opening half-hour. But, once level, Chesterfield never looked back for the rest of the first half.
A passing move from left to right ended with Liam Mandeville's deflected cross looping over Cousins where Grigg couldn't miss converting his 19th goal of the campaign.
One became two on 34 minutes as Chesterfield showed why they're top, Jeff King cutting inside three players on the edge of the box. When his shot was blocked on the line by O'Neill, Armando Dobra was on hand to stab home the loose ball.
Ebbsfleet immediately changed to a 4-5-1 formation to stem the flow and it worked to the extent that they went in level at half-time. Although that was partly due to Dobra heading wide and an excellent block by Skura followed by a brave piece of goalkeeping from Cousins to deny Dobra - a chance again coughed up after Fleet conceded possession cheaply.
Ebbsfleet made a double change at the break with Franklin Domi and Darren McQueen both introduced. It had an instant impact as they took just four minutes to get back on level terms.
The flag stayed down as Edser was played on by a retreating home defence and the ball fell perfectly for Ben Chapman, who fired home emphatically into the far corner.
Within a minute, the Fleet were nearly ahead as Bingham and Domi combined to set up McQueen. He cut inside and his goalbound shot was brilliantly tipped away for a corner by Tyrer.
Ebbsfleet were a danger on the break and nearly took the lead on the hour mark. Bingham won the ball on the edge of his own box and then within three passes between himself and Poleon, the latter was clean through on goal. Poleon dinked his shot past Tyrer but Grimes raced back to clear off the line.
The expected onslaught didn’t arrive and Ebbsfleet got through to the last 10 minutes with Cousins not called into serious action in the second half.
Indeed it was Tyrer who again denied the Fleet with eight minutes left when Chapman fed McQueen and his low left-foot shot was turned behind by the keeper.
Chesterfield substitute Ollie Banks warmed the palms of Cousins from distance with four minutes to go and then James Berry advanced and saw his effort well saved.
The clock was ticking agonisingly slowly for the travelling 135 fans but they were grateful to see only three minutes added on, and even more grateful to see Mandeville’s left-foot shot from 20 yards come back off the crossbar for the home side.
But a late twist would have been a cruel blow for Ebbsfleet. While a point at Chesterfield on its own won’t be enough to rescue them, it should give a massive confidence boost to the squad that they are more than capable of dragging themselves away from danger.
Chesterfield: Tyrer, Horton, Naylor, Grimes, Mandeville, Oldaker (Hobson 89mins), Grigg, Jacobs (Banks 75mins), Williams, Dobra (Berry 75mins), King. Subs not used: Sheckleford, Quigley.
Ebbsfleet: Cousins, O’Neill, Skura, Kenlock, Sterling-James (McQueen 46mins), Cisse (Domi 46mins), Wright, Edser, Chapman, Bingham (Clifford 82mins), Poleon. Subs not used: Fogarty, Samuel.
Referee: Stuart Morland.
Attendance: 8,033 (135 away).