MUNICH, May 15 (Bundesliga) - 1860 slipped ever closer to the Bundesliga trapdoor in the cruellest of circumstances at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday.
Leading 1-0 thanks to Rodrigo Costa's 6th minute goal, the home side looked to be in with a good chance of saving their Bundesliga status when they travel to Monchengladbach next weekend.
But an 83rd minute equaliser from Alexander Madlung leaves Munich hoping for a miracle next Saturday when they must win and rely on Kaiserslautern losing to stay in the top flight.
However, the drama wasn't over until substitute Francis Kioyo missed an 89th minute penalty to leave Berlin celebrating their guaranteed survival and 1860 reflecting on what could, and probably should have been.
1860 Munich needed not only to win but hope results elsewhere went their way to take their battle for survival to the final game of the season.
And just as the scoreboard revealed that Schalke had gone ahead against Kaiserslautern - one of those sides 1860 needed to lose - Munich did their own bit by scoring the opening goal.
Germany international Arne Friedrich fouled Roman Tyce close to the touchline on the Lions' right after just six minutes.
Andreas Gorlitz swung in the resultant free kick and defender Costa rose unchallenged at the far post to head into the bottom corner of Christian Fiedler's goal.
Boosted by the early goal, 1860 ontinued to push forward and unsettle Hertha, who found themselves camped inside their own half for much of the first ten minutes.
1860 boss Gerald Vanenburg had put his faith in his younger players and it was the energy of youth that made the clear difference between the two sides in the opening half.
Matthias Lehmann (20) and Lance Davids (19) chased everything in the belief that there is no such thing as a lost cause, and this unsettled the guests, who didn't have as much time on the ball as they would otherwise have hoped.
And Lehmann twice regained possession when the ball should have been lost to set up another attack that he almost benefited from.
1860's 27-year-old Roman Tyce was revelling in a fresh lease of life alongside his younger colleagues and it was his cross that finally came to Lehmann ten yards from goal, but the midfielder's shot was deflected behind for a corner.
Berlin's reliance on Marcelinho was proving to be their Achilles heal as the Brazilian's frustration rose to the surface on more than one occasion, getting in the way of his obvious technical ability.
But the home side were concentrating perhaps too much on the pint-sized striker when Roberto Pinto managed to breach the offside trap in the 37th minute.
And Berlin should have been level when Pinto squared the ball to Artur Wichniarek only to see his striker slice the ball wide despite having almost the whole of the empty goal to aim at.
It was business as usual at the start of the second half, but then the visitor's lifted their game with the arrival of Andreas Neuendorf for the ineffective Andreas Schmidt.
Vanenburg reacted by bringing Fernando into the fray and the home side were immediately back onto the front foot with Berlin needing a last-ditch tackle from Dennis Cagara to prevent Davids from pulling the trigger after being put through by the industrious Tyce.
Fernando volleyed a shot over from 20 yards as the game entered the crucial final 20 minutes with the full support of the 48,000 fans in the Olympic Stadium.
Vanenburg compensated for the increasingly tired legs on the field after 72 minutes by handing Belgian Under-21 international striker Christophe Lepoint a Bundesliga debut in place of the tireless Lehmann, who only seconds earlier had received treatment for cramp.
The home side's inability to kill the game off when they were on top ended up haunting them as Berlin drew level with seven minutes remaining.
Marcelinho swung in a free-kick from the right and defender Madlung was able to get to the ball first and flick a header beyond Andre Lenz to silence the home fans.
But the home side were given the biggest lifeline possible with two minutes remaining when referee Stefan Trautmann pointed to the spot after Martin Stranzl was bundled over by Friedrich inside the box.
Cameroon international Kioyo had only been on the field three minutes, but he stepped up to pull the penalty wide and collapse in a heap at the penalty spot with the whole of the Berlin bench rising in unison to celebrate the point that guarantees Bundesliga football for the capital side next season.