Michael Cheek’s simple tap-in rounded off a free-flowing move just ten minutes before the break, his 23rd of the season in all competitions, as Basingstoke struggled to test Tom Lovelock in the City goal.
The Clarets were almost forced to pay for some slack defending when Shaun McAuley and then Lloyd Macklin spurned great chances. The first was saved well by Tom Lovelock, with Mackin’s strike drifting wide of the post after a lapse in concentration from Marvin Ekpiteta.
Cheek had another chance to further the host’s lead when he wriggled free of a challenge, but Moore ensured that that the Dragons kept in the match.
The visitors continued to press and that pressure eventually told with substitute Manny Williams being brought down in the area by Rob Girdlestone. Williams then stepped up to send the penalty under Tom Lovelock, the keeper dived the right way, but the Clarets had a great chance to steer themselves in front late on when Mark Hughes blazed over from close-range.
It was clear from the off that Chelmsford manager Mark Hawkes wanted a reaction from three consecutive defeats as he made a number of changes to the side who lost 2-1 to top-of-the-table Bromley last weekend.
Mark Haines returned from suspension to partner Marvin Ekpiteta in defence while Mason Spence made his first start in City colours with Joe Ward forced to settle for a place on the substitutes’ bench. Southend loannee Jack Bridge, who extended his loan spell from the Sky Bet League Two side for a further month, replaced Kabongo Tshimanga up front as Rohdell Gordon made a rare start on the left-wing.
The wind appeared to play a significant role in the early exchanges as the ball held up in the channels, but that didn’t prevent the Clarets from carving the first chance, however, as Mark Hughes’ strike from the edge of the area was deflected wide.
Michael Cheek then saw his header saved from the resultant corner as the Dragons looked to regain their footing.
Other than a couple of Basingstoke attacks that eventually saw Liam Enver-Marum flagged offside, the visitors caused the Clarets little problems.
City looked intent on breaking the deadlock early and came close through some crafty wing-play by Jack Bridge. The youngster burst down the left before cutting inside and teeing up Mason Spence who was unlucky to see his snapshot blocked.
The Clarets almost capitalised on some risky defending on the half hour mark when David Ray’s header back to his ‘keeper was short. In an attempt to close down the space and possibly nicking it past the onrushing Stuart Moore, Cheek launched forward and was deemed to have fouled the keeper, resulting in a rather harsh booking.
And Cheek was eventually rewarded for his endeavour when he tapped home five minutes later. Jack Bridge initiated the move with a well-weighted lob over Basingstoke’s defence. Rohdell Gordon then executed a similar movement into the path of Cheek who rounded Moore to slot home into the empty net. That was the forward’s first goal in five games and gave the hosts a valuable lead going into the half-time interval.
The opening of the second-half failed to excite the 692-strong crowd as both sides struggled to create clear cut chances.
Shaun McAuley soon ignited the game back into life though and thought he’d netted an equaliser when he shot at Lovelock, only for the close-range effort to be repelled and subsequently cleared from danger.
That created a flurry of chances and the Dragons came closer still moments later and were inches away to a leveller when Lloyd Macklin’s drive curled wide of the post at the final moment. Jay Gasson was then denied by another fine point-blanc Lovelock save before skipper Ray had his follow-up effort blocked.
Momentum then shifted in favour of the Clarets with the hosts displaying some good pace in the wide areas following Joe Ward’s introduction.
The winger, who replaced Rohdell Gordon, almost made the perfect introduction when he forced Moore into a finger-tip save when his powerful free-kick almost crept into the top corner.
Cheek then almost doubled his tally for the afternoon when he beat Jay Gasson for strength before pulling a save from Moore.
Both benches responded by using all three substitutes, ultimately killing the game, until the dying moments when the match was turned on its head.
The Clarets were punished with one minute to spare when Manny Williams was adjudged to have been fouled in the penalty area by Rob Girdlestone and, with no hesitation, he stepped up to slot the penalty home past Lovelock to steal a point and net his tenth of the season.
Harry Hickford and Mark Hughes were both guilty of missing chances to nick a late winner but the visitor’s clung on.
City now face the prospect of two tough away fixtures against another promotion-chasing side in Gosport Borough before travelling to Hemel Hempstead and, having surrendered a late lead in this fixture, the Clarets will be faced with a tough task next weekend.
1. Tom Lovelock
2. Rob Girdlestone
3. Michael Toner
4. Mark Hughes (C)
5. Mark Haines
6. Marvin Ekpiteta
7. Mason Spence
8. Harry Hickford
9. Jack Bridge
10. Michael Cheek
11. Rohdell Gordon
12. Joe Ward (On for Rohdell Gordon, 62)
14. Kabongo Tshimanga (On for Mason Spence, 81)
15. Leon Redwood
16. Evans Kouassi (On for Michael Cheek, 75)
19. Niklas Freund (GK)
1. Stuart Moore
2. Rob Rice
3. Tom Bird
4. Rob Dicke
5. Jay Gasson
6. David Ray (C)
7. Simon Dunn
8. Shaun McAuley
9. Liam Enver-Marum
10. Lloyd Macklin
11. James Harper
12. Louie Soares (On for Jay Gasson, 68)
14. Andrew Jenkinson
15. Chris Flood (On for Lloyd Mackin, 77)
16. Manny Williams (On for Simon Dunn, 68)
17. Ryan Case
Referee: Mr Ryan T Atkin (London)
Assistant referees: Mr Thomas Hancock and Mr Nigel Phillips
Bookings: Chelmsford City: Michael Cheek (foul, 31), Tom Lovelock (89, dissent)
Basingstoke Town: None.
Scorers: Chelmsford City: Michael Cheek (35)
Basingstoke Town: Manny Williams (89, penalty)
HT Score: 1-0
City Man of the Match: Mason Spence