by CHRISTOPHER PARSONS
FORMER Pilgrim George Donnelly scored with the last touch of the game to deny Argyle a deserved victory at Moss Rose on a hazy Cheshire evening.
The Pilgrims, the better side throughout, had led from Conor Hourihane's strike 19 minutes from time and looked like collecting all three points before the Scouser, who made just two substitute appearances in two-and-a-half years at Home Park, pounced with a header in the fourth minute of injury time.
It was the first goal that Argyle had conceded in 416 minutes of football and one that they did not deserve to concede.
They say what does not kill you makes you stronger. After this cruel, cruel draw, let's hope that is true.
Argyle manager Carl Fletcher had made just one change to the side that battled to a point against Dagenham & Redbridge two days previously.
Ashley Hemmings, who had started 14 consecutive matches since his scoring debut against Northampton on November 26, was given his first taste of the substitutes' bench in favour of Luke Daley, who had not started a match since the 2-0 FA Cup defeat at Stourbridge, just four days before the crushing of the Cobblers.
In fairness, it would have been tough of Fletcher to over look the former Norwich man, who, after a goal against Accrington Stanley, a brace for the reserves in the St Luke's Cup and a thunderous half-volley denied only by the post against the Daggers, had done more than enough to warrant a game.
Macclesfield had lost eight games on the bounce before Saturday's 1-1 draw with Oxford at the Kassam, but manager Gary Simpson was forced into one change, Michael Thomas replacing the injured Elliott Hewitt.
The post-match form looked ominous for even the most blue-tinted Macclesfield fan with the Pilgrims undefeated since the middle of January, and the Silkmen without a win in 2012.
But that didn't stop the home side from becoming the first to threaten, when an unmarked Marcus Marshall headed Matt Hamshaw's corner wide.
Argyle defender Darren Purse then gave the Green Army in the uncovered London Road stand something to shout about when he fired a snap shot wide from the edge of the box.
They shouted even louder just moments later when Daley, on his first searching run of the match, looked to have been bundled over in the box by Ben Futcher. Referee Philip Gibbs had a think, before waving the Pilgrims protests away.
The Pilgrims had further cause to appeal on the half-hour mark when Futcher appeared to handle just inside the area. Even Luke Young, the quietest, most mild-mannered player on the pitch, appealed dramatically for what he and several of his team mates felt was a stonewall penalty.
As so often is the case, the apparent injustice spurred the Greens on and in the next five minutes, they had several chances to open the scoring as Purse and Daley both had efforts blocked.
Argyle seemed to win corner after corner but still could not find the net, with Nick Chadwick the next to see his shot snuffed out.
Macclesfield threatened ten minutes before half-time, with Marshall again the danger man, this time firing over from Donnelly's knock down.
That was to be the last meaningful effort before the break with the ball spending more time in the air than on the deck.
After the interval, the post-half time lull was shattered early on when Conor Hourihane fired in a shot that fizzed just wide of Silkmen 'keeper Richard O'Donnell's right-hand post.
Alex MacDonald that with a low free-kick from 30 yards but like Conor, he could not find the target.
But just seconds later, it was the home side who looked like scoring when a goalmouth scramble eventually saw Futcher stab just wide.
Having dominated for much of the game, Argyle were now letting Macclesfield back in and so to counteract, Fletcher replaced Daley with Hemmings just before the hour mark.
But before Ash could even touch the ball, Jake Cole was called into action to deny Hamshaw with a fabulous diving save after the Town skipper had worked his way through the Pilgrims defence to unleash from the edge of the box.
Sensing the need for defensive cover, the Pilgrims reacted and adopted a 4-1-4-1 formation with Wotton as the holding midfielder, pushing Young into the middle, MacDonald to the right, leaving Chadwick up front on his own.
Within five minutes the tactical shift had paid off as Argyle took the lead.
As Argyle broke in numbers, the ball fell to Young whose shot was deflected and fell to the feet of Hourihane. Without breaking stride or taking a touch, the Irishman thrashed his boot through it and then wheeled away in celebration as the net rippled and the Green Army behind the goal went wild.
Knowing that at 1-0 might not be enough, Argyle pushed on and came a whisker away from doubling their lead as Chadwick poked MacDonald's curling cross over the bar.
Hemmings was the next to have a go, forcing a decent save out of O'Donnell from ten yards after he was played in by Williams.
When four minutes of added time were signalled by the fourth official, the home side predictably threw the kitchen sink at the Argyle defence before, with the last kick of the game, Donnelly popped up to break Green hearts.
And boy, does it hurt.
Macclesfield Town (4-4-2): 40 Richard O'Donnell; 11 Colin Daniel, 25 Michael Thomas, 35 Ben Futcher, 36 Mark Connelly (34 Michael Bakare 83); 12 Arnuad Mendy, 15 Marcus Marshall, 17 Sam Wedgbury, 20 Matt Hamshaw (capt) (18 Waide Fairhurst 80); 9 Georgie Donnelly, 23 Ben Tomlinson (10 Vinny Mukendi 77). Substitutes (not used): 2 Jon Bateson, 29 Ben Mills.
Booked: Thomas 25.
Argyle (4-4-2): 23 Jake Cole; 28 Paul Bignot, 5 Darren Purse, 22 Maxime Blanchard, 3 Robbie Williams; 7 Luke Daley (31 Ashley Hemmings 59), 19 Paul Wotton (capt), 20 Conor Hourihane (8 Simon Walton 81), 15 Luke Young; 29 Nick Chadwick, 32 Alex MacDonald. Substitutes (not used): 1 Romain Larrieu (gk), 2 Durrell Berry, 9 Juvhel Tsoumou.
Booked: Bignot 55
Referee: Andy Haines.