The US Under-20 men's national team had shown marked improvement on Monday afternoon against France, but were still on their way to a second straight group stage defeat after nearly 80 minutes.
Then Daniel Cuevas came off the bench and came up with the timeliest of goals.
The Americans grabbed their first point at the Under-20 World Cup in Turkey on Monday, tying France 1-1 at Istanbul's Ali Sami Yen Arena thanks to a late strike from Cuevas. The diminutive midfielder, who came off the bench late in the second half, negated Yaya Sanogo's 48th-minute penalty kick, rifling a loose ball into the back of the net following a Luis Gil free kick in the 85th minute.
The draw gave the US some hope for advancement to the knockout phase of the tournament. They currently sit in third place in Group A and will face Ghana at Kadir Has Stadium on June 27.
Tab Ramos' men began the game under immediate pressure but defended better than they had in a 4-1 loss to Spain on Friday. US goalkeeper Cody Cropper still had to come up with a handful of quality saves to prevent the Americans from falling behind, including on a blistering shot in the 17th minute, but they managed to go into halftime without conceding a goal despite struggling offensively and being on the back foot for much of the opening 45 minutes.
The end of the first half showed some promise for the US, as Gil had a good look on goal against a disciplined France team that was poorly taken. But it was France who came out ouf the intermission with the momentum, and Les Bleus were given a penalty kick in the 47th minute when center back Javan Torre was called for a foul that replays showed was outside the Americans' 18-yard box.
France took full advantage of the opportunity, with Sanogo beating Cropper with a hard shot that the US goalkeeper got a hand on but couldn't keep out of the net.
Cropper was able to deny Sanogo from the run of play near the 60-minute mark, though, making a pivotal stop that opened the door for the US to earn a penalty kick in the 64th minute. The referee pointed to the spot after forward Mario Rodriguez went down in the box, despite replays showing little to no contact, but Gil was unable to put the ensuing spot kick past goalkeeper Alphonse Areola.
France were the ones cursing their luck shortly thereafter, as a shot from Jean-Cristophe Bahebeck soared past Cropper but rifled off the crossbar.
Their inability to put the US away proved costly. After Gil took a free kick five minutes from the death, several French defenders failed to properly clear the ball and Cuevas pounced on it for the tying goal.
The Americans next face Ghana in their group-stage finale on Thursday (1 pm ET, ESPNU), a game in which they must secure a result for any hope of advancing to the knockout stages.