AFC Bournemouth were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw against Cardiff City in their latest Sky Bet Championship fixture.
Harry Arter’s stunning 16th minute strike was cancelled out by Bruno Ecuele-Manga’s second half header, in a hotly contested contest at the Cardiff City Stadium.
The result sees the Cherries slip down to third in the league, just two points behind leaders Watford.
Eddie Howe made one change to his starting line-up with Arter, who missed out on Saturday’s match against Blackpool due to suspension, returning in place of former Swansea midfielder Shaun Macdonald.
Heading into the match as league leaders, the Cherries started like a team with intent as Callum Wilson shot wide from Matt Ritchie’s cross before Marc Pugh’s sweetly struck shot cannoned off the bar with him unable to direct the rebound on target.
Cardiff’s physical presence up front looked to cause the Cherries problems on the break and on the 11th minute Artur Boruc was called into action as he got down well to save from Craig Noone.
This didn’t deter the Cherries from continuing to play the better football of the two sides though, and on the 16th minute they got their rewards for their patience as the returning Arter’s sublime shot from 25 yards out landed in the top left hand corner.
The goal clearly give the midfielder confidence and just two minutes later his tally could have been doubled as he ended a nice move by shooting wide of the far post.
The half continued in a similar vein, with Cardiff looking to exploit the Cherries with long balls forward but the visitors remained in control and, on the 37th minute they appeared to have reason to feel aggrieved as referee Lee Mason waved away penalty claims.
Callum Wilson twisted and turned his way around the City defence and as he looked to get his shotunderway, he went down inside the area. Howe and the Cherries bench were up in arms as Mason could be seen shouting ‘No chance’.
As the crowd grew incensed, the Bluebirds started to enjoy more possession with their best opportunity falling to Alex Revell; fortunately for the visitors his teasing ball across the face of goal was put behind by the sliding Simon Francis before Ecuele-Manga headed over from the following corner.
Both sides returned for the second period unchanged, and the format of the game continued as the Cherries continued to press for a second and chances came their way.
The first came on the 51st minute as Fabio De Silva somehow intercepted Wilson’s low cross to Ritchie at the far post, before Francis’ low cross from the other side was intercepted before it could reach Pitman in the centre.
City continued to look to thwart the Cherries on the counter with long balls towards their aerial threat of Jones and Revell, with the former’s header forcing Boruc into a low save in the following moments.
Their next chance came as a result of a neat one-two between Pugh and Charlie Daniels, with Pugh eventually finding his way inside the area with his ball into Wilson from the far post cannoning off it and then him before going behind.
However whilst a second looked imminent, the Bluebirds were level as the Cherries failed to deal with a corner and Ecuele-Manga’s guided his powerful header beyond Boruc.
The Cherries were not to be disheartened and looked to find a goal to restore their advantage, with Pitman’s looping ball towards the on-rushing Pugh being well read by stopper Simon Moore, before Sean Morrison came to their defence moments later with a pivotal block from Ritchie’s shot inside the area.
The chances kept coming and on the 73rd minute their pressure looked to have come to fruition as Wilson hunted down a goal kick, and he slotted the ball into the empty net.
Once again referee Mason was at the centre of the Cherries’ dismay as he disallowed the goal and booked Wilson in the process, despite no foul being evident.
In a bid to turn their dominance into goals, Adam Smith and Yann Kermorgant were introduced in the 75th minute, but they were forced to wait until the 82nd minute for their next opportunity as Smith dragged his shot wide of the far post.
The visitors continued to push late into the game to no avail as chances fell to Wilson, who hunted down a weak back pass which Moore got to in the nick of time, and Steve Cook, who headed over from Pugh's cross.
Cardiff City: Moore, Fabio, Ecuele Manga, Morrison, Connolly, Whittingham, Gunnarsson, Noone, Kennedy (Ralls 79), Jones (Adeyemi 87), Revell.
Unused substitutes: Wilson, Malone, Gabbidon, O’Keefe, Doyle .
Goal: Ecuele-Manga (79)
Cherries: Boruc, Francis, Elphick, Cook, Daniels, Ritchie (Smith 75), Arter, Surman, Pugh, Pitman (Kermorgant 75), Wilson.
Unused substitutes: Camp, Ward, MacDonald, Fraser, Rantie.
Booked: Wilson 73
Goal: Arter (16)