Carlisle United 1 Peterborough United 1: By the 95th minute, Brunton Park was mainly pondering how many other ways Carlisle United could manage not to be awarded a penalty. A Peterborough defender pulling out a gun and shooting Sean Maguire?

Ah, but he went down easily, didn’t he. And this is League One, where guns are allowed. If you can’t take a bullet in the penalty area from time to time, then you have no business at this level. Pull yourselves together, lads.

Extreme? Of course. Yet the more orthodox offences of tripping a man, pulling a man’s shirt and handling the ball had long been deemed legal, so where are we to turn? Last night’s referee was called Simpson, but he was no friend of Carlisle’s manager, let alone a relative.

By the 95th, Brunton Park was fuming, flabbergasted and contemplating a technicolour range of other f-words. By the 96th, though, they had moved on to G for Gibson – the saviour this game deserved, the player who, through his efforts in League One to date, warranted a moment like this.

News and Star: Gibson is embraced after his goalGibson is embraced after his goal (Image: Ben Holmes)

As Callum Guy stood over one last free-kick, the chilly stadium was preparing to empty its throat one last time at the officials. Guy floated the set-piece, Peterborough cleared it and Gibson, from 30 yards, did not so much gamble as put the last few pennies of his life savings on red.

The ball fizzed from his foot, took a deflection and burrowed its way into Nicholas Bilokapic’s net. The place roared and shook. The tone of a game which looked set to end angrily had suddenly changed. 

And we can only hope United can couple this burst of character with the night’s mountain of grievance to execute a climb of this League One table. It is still only one win to date, but this was not a night to worry about that stat. 

It was to compliment Paul Simpson’s team in the face of several obstacles: firstly a strong and fast Peterborough side, and also the introduction of VAR to League One: Very Awful Refereeing.

Carlisle got nothing of the marginal or even blatant calls from the man with the occasionally-used whistle, Scott Simpson. Brunton Park was a house of flaming irritation the longer things went on. Ronnie Edwards’ headed goal for Peterborough rubbed it firmly in. But then Gibson struck. 

News and Star: Tomas Holy makes a flying save on his recallTomas Holy makes a flying save on his recall (Image: Barbara Abbott)

United stayed out of League One’s relegation zone as a result. The task of remaining out of that domain come next May looks no easier. Psychologically, last night's refusal to die might help.

Another midweek epic, then, at a ground that’s seen a few in this second Simpson era. To begin with, it felt like autumn had arrived coldly at Brunton Park as Peterborough attacked with pace that matched the evening’s cutting breeze.

Manager Simpson had performed the season’s most eyecatching overhaul yet, dropping Paul Huntington in favour of a back-four system which involved Sam Lavelle as captain, Alfie McCalmont’s industry reintroduced and Maguire peeling to the right whilst the recalled Joe Garner provided a bulwark at centre-forward.

The benefits of such changes appeared more in theory than practice initially. Peterborough should have led inside two minutes, Jonson Clarke-Harris sweeping a great chance over the bar and, as United tried to go at Darren Ferguson’s side, they found the visitors’ dynamism in response was a much more potent weapon. 

News and Star: Sam Lavelle was captain with Paul Huntington droppedSam Lavelle was captain with Paul Huntington dropped (Image: Ben Holmes)

David Ajiboye and Ricky-Jade Jones, on either flank, were clear and present threats, while Peter Kioso supported effectively on the right. Lavelle and Jon Mellish were immediately asked to clear, block and clear again as Peterborough regained the ball, worked it and stretched Carlisle with it.

The returning Tomas Holy showed encouraging alertness to save smartly from Jones (who was offside) and, while McCalmont was a busy presence and Maguire’s running was always alert, the confidence to make the most of things was not yet in Carlisle’s game.

An amount of organisation and defiance was, at least. Holy got his gloves warm with a fine save from Clarke-Harris, then denied Ephron Mason-Clark with his feet. Carlisle’s own opportunities were largely remote, and long-range, even if their shape and pressing discipline were good, but an increase in composure later in the half produced a bright moment as Guy’s clipped pass almost served the bustling Maguire.

News and Star: Alfie McCalmont heads the ball forwardAlfie McCalmont heads the ball forward (Image: Ben Holmes)

From there, they grew. Early in the second half McCalmont and Fin Back did excellently to keep Peterborough in their left corner, before Gibson saw a shot deflected wide. 

Owen Moxon’s corners kept the visitors honest and then, after the midfielder kept an attack alive, Maguire nipped in front of Edwards and went down, ref Simpson exasperating Brunton Park by keeping his whistle from his lips.

A moment later, Kioso’s quite blatant tug at Gibson’s shirt was also deemed fine. When the visiting captain then put hand to ball, it was presumably in the knowledge that it would be absolutely okay to do so, which it was.

If once is annoying, twice and thrice pushed United’s fans to the outer limits of their vocabulary. Bitterness then deepened when a disputed free-kick went Peterborough’s way and Joel Randall’s whipped cross from the left was powered home by Edwards. 

News and Star: Players smother Gibson after his goalPlayers smother Gibson after his goal (Image: Ben Holmes)

Good delivery, good finish – and a feeling as sour as month-old milk. Yet Carlisle kept going. Terry Ablade and Luke Plange came off the bench, as did Ryan Edmondson afterwards, and while the battle was very much uphill again, it was not insurmountable, despite everything.

Gibson, perhaps their brightest player this season so far, was an appropriate last-action saviour. In the post-match exchanges, Carlisle’s goalkeeping coach Dave Timmins was red-carded. One Simpson then spoke of his pride, and another was howled out of town. Can you guess which was which?