By Ian Winrow at the Vitality Stadium
MATT Smith stepped off the bench to salvage a deserved point for Gary Rowett’s Millwall side and deny Bournemouth the chance to go second.
Rowett’s side appeared on course for defeat when Dominic Solanke fired the promotion hopefuls ahead in first-half added-time.
But the Lions boss introduced Smith in the 78th minute when the visitors had been building pressure on the home goal.
And the move was immediately rewarded when the striker forced the ball home after Jake Cooper had flicked on from a long free-kick.
Rowett’s line-up showed just two changes from the side that started in Saturday’s FA Cup third-round victory over Boreham Wood, six to the line-up that started in the last league game, the 2-1 home defeat to Coventry.
Jed Wallace, an unused substitute against the non-leaguers, was restored to the team in place of teenager Tyler Burey while Bart Bialkowski returned in goal.
Danny McNamara did enough at the weekend to be included for his league debut following his loan recall from St Johnstone with Mahlon Romeo again starting on the bench.
Rowett had made no attempt to disguise the scale of the task confronting his side in the build-up to the game when he described the recently relegated Cherries as a Premier League side in all but name.
And the opening moments of the game would have strengthened the manager’s view as the home side immediately took control of the contest.
Not that Millwall did themselves any favours when David Brooks was allowed to weave his way into the visitors’ penalty area after just two minutes.
The Wales international evaded two Lions defenders to create the space for a shot and it took a good save from Bialkowski to prevent Bournemouth establishing an early advantage.
A misunderstanding involving Bialkowski and Shaun Hutchinson that meant the centre-back’s attempted back-header drifted out for a corner did nothing to ease the early pressure.
There were promising signs for the visitors, though, particularly when Scott Malone worked his way to the byline and pulled a dangerous cross across the face of goal.
But Bournemouth’s quality was evident in a superb passing move that took the home side from one end of the pitch to the other where it took an excellent block by Alex Pearce to deflect Junior Stanislas’s shot to safety.
Rowett’s side survived those early scares and the longer the first half went on, the more they came into the game.
And had Jed Wallace shown more composure after being sent clear by a superb Ryan Woods through-ball, they would have taken a 24th-minute lead.
Cherries keeper Asmir Begovic won that one-on-one battle, but from the resulting corner, the keeper needed the help of a covering defender to deflect Ryan Leonard’s shot wide for another set-piece.
Bournemouth failed to learn their lesson, and it took a goal-line clearance from the Cherries’ Jefferson Lerma to prevent Cooper’s header from looping in.
The balance of the game had shifted and there were more signs that the home side were uncomfortable on the back foot when Brooks hauled back Leonard 25 yards from goal two minutes before the break.
That gave Wallace the opportunity to drill a low shot past the defensive wall, forcing Begovic into another good save with Malone unable to direct his follow-up effort on target.
Agonisingly for Rowett’s side, though, Bournemouth managed to make the breakthrough in first-half added-time when Stanislas ran at the defence before laying off for Solanke who fired a left-foot shot inside Bialkowski’s near post.
The goal inevitably lifted Bournemouth, who returned for the second half with renewed confidence, moving the ball about well but without testing Bialkowski.
Wallace’s pace remained the Lions’ biggest threat and the winger almost found Troy Parrott after breaking clear on the right.
But while the Cherries dominated possession, it was always going to be hard for Millwall to find a way back into the game.
Rowett’s side kept going and Kenneth Zohore drew another foul on the edge of the Bournemouth area midway through the second half.
The striker stepped up to take the set-piece himself and was unlucky to see his low, left-foot shot rebound to safety off the post.
That was enough to persuade Rowett to bring Smith on – and the striker immediately served up the equaliser with his fourth goal of the season.
Millwall: 5-2-3: Bialkowski; McNamara, Hutchinson, Pearce (Smith, 78), Cooper, Malone; Woods, Leonard; J Wallace (Thompson, 84), Zohore (Bennett, 78), Parrott (Bodvarsson, 78).
Image: Millwall FC