Down were just a minute away from snatching the final place in the semi finals of the Senior Two Cup last weekend.

Jeremy McCready's side led derby rivals Saintfield 3-2 at The Demesne as the game entered the last 60 seconds, but hopes of a semi-final appearance were dashed by former Down player Nigel Jackson who completed his hat-trick for the home side.

Down's dropped point means it's the PSNI and Portrush who join Ballynahinch and Larne in the semi-final draw which is to be held shortly.

While Saintfield were delighted to welcome back Jackson for last Saturday's derby tussle, Down were able to field both Adam McKee and Alasdair Duff for the first time this season and Sinclair White is available for this Saturday's opening Senior Two league game away to Larne.

Philip Brown was forced to takeover in goal for the unavailable Carl Mullan but the visitors were always comfortable during the frenetic opening exchanges.

Down were fielding their strongest side of the season to date and wanted to claim the three points up for grabs to claim that semi-final spot, but it was the home side who took the lead.

The opening goal came in the 14th minute when Jackson scored from open play after being allowed too much time and space in the penalty area following a defensive mix-up to pick his spot past a cruelly exposed Brown.

Down roared back in search of the equaliser and it came within minutes. Paul Tate was the architect of the goal and his clever pass found the impressive Cliff Lennon who waltzed past a number of Saintfield defenders before picking out his skipper at the back post who had the simplest of tasks to score past Alastair Patterson.

The visitors thought they should have been awarded a penalty stroke following an Ivor Johnston challenge on Duffy as the Down man was about to pull the trigger, but calls for a penalty were waved away by the umpire.

Mark Elliott also thought he should have been awarded a stroke when his shot on goal struck a Saintfield defender on the chest with Patterson beaten. Again the visitors' claims were rejected by the umpire who awarded a short corner instead.

Neither side got its nose in front before the interval, with respective skippers McCready and Stephen Tate urging more of the same from their players in the second half.

Within five minutes of the restart Down took the lead for the first time in the game. Tate again was the creator of the goal; his brilliant work saw the ball slipped to Elliott who picked out McCready to score his second goal of the afternoon.

But back came Saintfield. Gavin Kirkpatrick created a goalscoring opportunity, but his rasping shot was saved by Brown. However, the rebound fell at the feet of Jackson who made it 2-2.

It was classic cup tie hockey with play flowing from end to end and with just under 15 minutes to go Down snatched back the lead for a second time.

Tate's skills won his side a short corner. The ball was pushed out to McCready via McKee, with the visiting skipper slipping the ball to Tate who gave Patterson no chance.

Down should have seen out the game to book that semi-final spot, but Saintfield's never-say-die attitude Ñ epitomised by their skipper Ñ saw the home side grab that dramatic equaliser to make it 3-3.

This weekend sees the start of the Senior Two league programme with Saintfield entertaining Foyle at home and Down away to Larne.

On paper, both local teams should pick up three points to provide the perfect start to their respective challenge for league honours.