The 1982/3 season was Carlisle’s first back in the Second Division after a five-year absence and, though it was far from plain sailing for Bob Stokoe’s Blues, survival was finally in their sights when they welcomed Cambridge to Brunton Park in May.

The visit of the men from the Abbey Stadium came three games from the end of a campaign which had seen some notable results as Stokoe’s side adjusted to life at a higher level.

After the previous term’s promotion, eyecatching results had included a 4-1 win over Crystal Palace in which Malcolm Poskett grabbed all Carlisle’s goals. They had also put away Newcastle 2-0 at Brunton Park and enjoyed big wins over struggling Charlton and Bolton, even though a tough division had inflicted enough defeats to keep relegation a concern through spring.

Stokoe had brought Mike McCartney back to the club before the March transfer deadline, the defender rejoining from Plymouth for a second spell, and he featured in a game against John Docherty’s mid-table Cambridge which took the Blues to the brink of safety, but still not quite there.

Carlisle made the best running and should have buried their guests, but lacked the killer instinct and were made to pay shortly before the end of a frustrating contest.

It was Cambridge who struck the first blow, going ahead in the third minute when future QPR and England winger Andy Sinton sent a fine 13-yard shot past Blues No1 Trevor Swinburne.

That came courtesy of a Steve Fallon free-kick, earned when a linesman ruled that Dave Rushbury had fouled George Reilly, but United responded creditably and soon had their visitors on the back foot.

Cambridge appeared to retreat into their shells as Carlisle took on an away side content to try and absorb home pressure. Visiting keeper Malcolm Webster was forced into a good save from Keith Houghton’s volley, and Carlisle stepped things up further when Bryan ‘Pop’ Robson, who had also returned for a second Blues spell, this time on loan from Chelsea, sent a Paul Bannon knock-down wide.

The equaliser looked inevitable and it arrived on the half-hour mark via Robson, the veteran driving low past Webster after Russell Coughlin had sent the ball into his path from an Alan Shoulder cross.

United should have had a quick second when Bannon helped on a Coughlin corner, but Poskett’s flicked finish was cleared off the line by Cambridge’s Tom Finney – the Northern Ireland midfielder as opposed to the Preston and England icon.

Carlisle now looked the more capable side by a street and when they seized the advantage 10 minutes into the second half it seemed victory, and second-tier survival, was theirs.

Coughlin’s set-piece delivery was again a menace, and when his corner found Bannon at the back post, the forward’s flick found Keith Robson – another March signing, on loan from Leicester, and like Pop a former West Ham favourite – to connect with a diving header which Webster couldn’t keep out.

This had now given United the ideal opportunity to build an emphatic win, but frustratingly they couldn’t convert. Poskett headed wide from a good position and, though Cambridge hit the post through Derrick Christie, Carlisle advanced time and again, the impressive Shoulder agonisingly denied when he sent a header against the inside of one post and watched the ball roll across goal to strike the other upright before the visitors got the ball clear.

These were the margins – and they cost Carlisle in the closing stages when, having been unable to seal the points, Stokoe’s side were pegged back three minutes from time.

Cambridge were aided in their leveller by United when an off-balance Rushbury sent a clearance against Houghton, but it still required a good 25-yard finish from Christie to send the visitors away with a point.

The 2-2 draw left Carlisle unable to say they were safe for sure, and had Stokoe exasperated. “I can bear missed chances, because we’re creating them,” he said. “But we must have thrown a dozen points away this season in the last five minutes of games.”

In a tight scrap in the lesser half of the Second Division, though, they already had enough on the board. The point left them 13th in the table, five points above the relegation places, and survival was swiftly assured after that.

They came to rest in 14th, two places below Cambridge, and built on that solid-looking position the following campaign, finishing seventh before their decline from that level of football began again.

United: Swinburne, Haigh, Houghton, Rushbury, McCartney, Shoulder, Coughlin, B Robson, K Robson, Poskett, Bannon.

Cambridge: Webster, Fisher, Turner, Fallon, Murray, Mayo, Finney, Cooke, Christie, Reilly, Sinton.

Crowd: 4,630.