JAMES Constable returned from suspension with a goal, but Oxford United were unable to hold on to their lead as the spoils were shared with Burton Albion.
After a quiet opening 45 minutes the game was livened up when the striker took his tally for the season into double figures early in the second half.
The Brewers looked to be there for the taking, but the home side could not find a second goal to make the game safe.
Instead the visitors struck through a rare moment of attacking threat from Jacques Maghoma 20 minutes from time.
United could not find a late winner, so had to settle for a draw.
James Constable and Tom Craddock returned up front, but the most striking of five changes to the starting line-up came in goal, where Max Crocombe replaced Wayne Brown for his senior debut.
The 19-year-old's every touch was cheered warmly by the home fans early on as a series of routine kicks helped calm the nerves.
Instead it was his opposite number, Stuart Tomlinson, who looked edgy early on in a difficult swirling wind.
The Burton goalkeeper opted to punch Luke O'Brien's 12th-minute cross when under no pressure, but the ball fell safe.
Both sides struggled to find a rhythm, appearing to be in two minds due to the conditions.
The blustery wind suggested the ball should be kept on the floor, but the bumpy playing surface made fluid football difficult.
United were forced into an enforced substitution midway through the half, when Michael Duberry picked up a knock and was replaced by Michael Raynes.
The home side's attacking product in the opening half hour consisted of one drilled shot from Damian Batt which flew wide.
But as the half wore on they began to cause Burton problems, especially through Sean Rigg, who had the measure of full back Anthony O'Connor.
The best passing move of the half led to the clearest chance before the break, on 33 minutes.
Adam Chapman, another to be recalled into the XI, picked out Batt at the back post. The full back arrived at pace and did well to improvise a half volley, which was superbly tipped round the post by Tomlinson.
From Peter Leven's resulting corner Raynes leapt highest, but could not keep his header down.
With the next attack Rigg crossed for Craddock, whose sharp spin and centre was almost deflected in for an own goal.
Crocombe almost blotted his copybook late in the half when he failed to get hold of an attempted punch at a corner.
The home fans held their breath for a moment and were relieved, along with the young stopper, to see the ball drift wide.
Another unplanned change was forced upon the U's at the interval, with Tony Capaldi replacing Leven.
The substitute took just five minutes to make an impact.
A cross took a deflection which went unnoticed by Burton's defence, who let the ball out for what they thought was a goal kick.
Instead the referee awarded a corner, which Capaldi swung in for Constable to convert.
The goal opened the game up immediately and United's attacking players began to find space.
Potter had a jinking run and shot which Tomlinson hung on to at his near post.
The hosts were in control and looking for a second goal to kill off the game.
They almost got it when Chapman crossed low for Raynes, whose flick went wide.
Burton boss Gary Rowett responded by replacing his front two.
The second substitution seemed to distract the U's, who were quickly pegged back.
A cross found Batt outnumbered by three opponents at the back post and the ball fell to Maghoma, who was given space to tuck a shot into the corner.
It gave both sides 20 minutes to find a winner.
Craddock had a glorious chance on 77 minutes when Batt's cross fell to his feet, only for the striker to snatch at the shot and blaze over from 12 yards.
At the other end substitute Billy Kee twice shot over following weak clearances from Raynes.
Kee had the final chance deep into stoppage time, but he volleyed apologetically wide from Maghoma's set-up.