Johann Berg Gudmundsson fired a spectacular equaliser as Charlton’s 10 men fought against the oddS to claim a Boxing Day point against Cardiff City at The Valley.
The Addicks found themselves a goal down when Tom Adeyemi headed the visitors in front early on before Callum Harriott was given his marching orders for a dangerous challenge before the break.
But Bob Peeters’ side picked themselves up to produce a superb, resilient, and at times, classy second-half showing, dominating the game before Gudmundsson arrowed his shot into the top corner with two minutes remaining, giving the hosts what their performance had deserved.
The big news pre-match was the return of the Johnnie Jackson after missing two games with a calf injury.
The skipper took up his position in the centre of midfield alongside Yoni Buyens, while Chris Solly returned to his familiar spot at right-back and Joe Gomez slotted into the left-back berth.
There was also a switch between the sticks as Neil Etheridge came in to make his first start for the Addicks, which meant Nick Pope reverted to the bench.
Meanwhile, there was also a return to action for George Tucudean up front, with Harriott in support with Igor Vetokele, struggling for fitness, having to settle for a place amongst the substitutes.
After a quiet opening 10 minutes in which the two sides were feeling each other out, the game sprung into life with 12 minutes gone.
Regrettably, however, that spring came when Cardiff took the lead.
The Addicks did not look to be in any real danger when Aron Gunnarsson came to the left-hand touchline to take a throw-in, but the Iceland international launched the ball into the box from which Tom Adeyemi leapt unmarked to head past Etheridge.
While it was the first effort on goal of the clash, the Bluebirds had certainly looked the more comfortable and they continued to come at the hosts in search of a quick second.
Adeyemi was presented with a chance to seal a brace when the ball fell to the midfielder 12 yards from goal, but he snatched at his shot to send it over moments before Kenwyne Jones got the better of André Bikey-Amougou to race through on goal, only to be denied by the linesman’s flag.
Charlton were certainly under the cosh as the Bluebirds continued to throw bodies forward, but with 25 minutes gone, they had their first real foray into the final third when Tal Ben Haim took matters into his own hands.
The defender made a tough challenge on the halfway line before making a buccaneering run through the Cardiff midfield and threading a delicate pass through for Tucudean with only David Marshall in front of him. The ball, however, ran just too long for the Romanian and out for a goal kick.
The task to get back into the game was undoubtedly difficult, and it was about to get decidedly more so just after the half-hour mark when the Addicks were reduced to 10 men.
With the ball running to Craig Noone, he got it out of his feet before Harriott could get there. And with the ball already gone, the academy graduate stuck in a late, high foot down on his opponent’s ankle, giving referee Mike Russell no option but to produce a red card.
A man down and a goal down, Bob Peeters’ men somehow needed to claw their way back into the encounter, which was slipping away from them with haste.
Indeed, there was a better reaction as the clock ticked down to the break as the Addicks enjoyed more of the ball and even registered their first shot on goal courtesy of Tucudean, who sweetly struck a good-looking shot on the half-volley into the side netting just before half-time.
Into the second half, and Charlton carved out a great chance for an equaliser when Buyens showed great tenacity to win the ball and play in Gudmundsson with a clever pass.
The winger took the ball down with his back to goal before turning and firing in an effort which Marshall did well to get behind.
Shortly after, Tucudean came inches away from finding the net when he connected brilliantly with Jackson’s corner. His overhead flick had beaten Marshall all ends up but came bouncing off the post to give the Valley faithful some hope that points were still on the table.
Peeters shuffled his pack just before the hour, introducing Vetokele and Oguchi Onyewu from the bench in place of Jackson and Gomez as the Addicks shifted to three at the back, with Solly playing on the right of a midfield diamond.
Cardiff came close when Jones headed the ball out of the path of Adam le Fondre who was in pole position at the back post, but the hosts’ 10 men were looking invigorated in the second period and were looking the far more likely.
On 65 minutes, the Bluebirds were extremely lucky not to lose a man themselves when Tucudean powered past Sean Morrison.
But just as he was about to enter the box to pull the trigger, he was cynically hauled down to deny the striker a chance at goal. The challenge, however, was only deemed to be worthy of a yellow, much to the home side’s disbelief.
Gudmundsson stepped up to take the set-piece and bent his effort beautifully around the wall, leaving Marshall rooted to the spot, only for the ball to bounce agonisingly off the right-hand upright for the second time.
Then, the wide man had another glorious chance when he was played in behind the Cardiff defence, took a touch and fired towards goal, forcing Marshall into a good low save to turn it round for a corner before the Addicks had their closest opportunity yet.
Cousins picked up possession just outside the box and powered the ball into a crowded box which Tucudean then flicked past Marshall. But just as the hosts were ready to celebrate, a Blue shirt was on hand on the goal-line to knock it away.
With The Valley on its feet it was all Charlton as the Bluebirds continued to hang on to their lead only by their fingertips.
But for all their second-half dominance, they were getting no favours at all from Mr Russell who denied them a stonewall penalty when Tucudean’s goalbound shot was intercepted by a Cardiff arm 10 yards from goal.
There could be absolutely no question that Peeters’ 10 men were fully-deserving of an equaliser, and with two minutes left on the clock, they finally got it.
Indeed, there was absolutely no questioning the quality of the strike when Gudmundsson picked up the ball and smashed it into the top left-hand corner from 25 yards to send SE7 into raptures.
A point was the very least that the Addicks deserved and it could, and should have been three when Vetokele was played in at the death for what would be the very last kick of the afternoon.
The substitute hared into the box with all the time in the world and with just Marshall to beat, but he shanked his shot over the bar to deny the Londoners what would have been an incredible comeback on Boxing Day.
The 10 men, though, can be pleased with the point considering the uphill struggle which they faced head-on with a superb showing after the break as they roll on to face high-flying Ipswich Town on Tuesday evening.
Charlton: Etheridge, Solly, Gomez (Onyewu 58), Ben Haim, Bikey-Amougou, Gudmundsson, Buyens, Jackson (Vetokele 59), Cousins; Harriott, Tucudean.
Subs (not used): Pope, Wilson, Bulot, Ahearne-Grant, Fox.
Booked: Solly 70 (foul on Harris)
Goal: Gudmundsson 88
Sent off: Harriott 33 (foul on Noone)
Cardiff: Marshall, Brayford, Turner, Morrison, John, Gunnarsson, Whittingham, Adeyemi (Ralls 88), Noone, Le Fondre (Harris 69), Jones.
Subs (not used): Moore, Fabio, Manga, Connolly, Macheda.
Booked: Marshall 64 (foul on Tucudean)
Goal: Adeyemi 12
Referee: M Russell
Att: 17,543 (874)