Report from the Exeter City home gameCarlisle and Exeter exchanged blows in a game which was a fantastic advert for the division and you couldn't slide a piece of paper between them as they remain deadlocked with the away tie at St James's Park to come on Thursday night.
Exeter started well and a shot from Watkins from the edge of the area had to be blocked by Raynes as it headed for the target.
But it was United who went close first when a huge kick from Gillespie was controlled beautifully by Proctor. His touch set things up for a shot and Olejnik had to jump high to tip it over the bar.
It was end-to-end as both sides went for it and Grant scuffed an effort from 20-yards which Gillespie was able to grasp.
Proctor was in action again moments later at the other end when he cushioned a high ball with his back to goal. He dropped a shoulder but poked a shot wide of the angle of post and bar.
A break from Sweeney caused Carlisle problems on 13 minutes when he carried the ball out of his own half. He bent a cross into the corridor of uncertainty and Watkins was disappointed as he slid in to scoop a poor attempt over the bar.
Exeter came again with a spinning ball over the top which sat up nicely for Watkins to cross on the bounce. Joel Grant bullied his way onto the end of it and Gillespie watched in agony as it came off his hand and crossed the line via the inside of the post.
United stayed patient and built well with a passing move on 23 minutes which saw Joyce, Lambe, Proctor and Bailey work their way down the right flank. The cross from Joyce had Proctor interested but James stepped across to head it behind. The corner was half cleared as far as Bailey but his volley rose high into the air.
Carlisle felt aggrieved moments later when Tom Miller was fouled deep inside the opposition half. The referee allowed play to continue and Watkins was sent clean through with the United defence at sixes and sevens. The forward did everything right until he put a low shot right at the stopper.
The game ebbed and flowed and the Cumbrians were close again when a flowing move left Joyce with the ball at his feet, dead central, 20-yards out. He fed it on to Lambe but his shot dropped just the wrong side of the upright.
Exeter had to defend a whipped Grainger corner just past the half hour but they could do nothing about the follow-up as the Cumbrians pounced on a half clearance. Nicky Adams was in acres of space and his low cross pinged awkwardly off boots before it nestled comfortably in the bottom corner as it bounced back off Moore-Taylor's shin.
Carlisle edged on top as they dictated the pace of the game and dogged tackling created a chance from nothing as Joyce and Bailey stuck close to their men. It was eventually sent wide to Lambe but his shot was stopped at source.
There was a real sting in the tail in time added on for the half as Ryan Harley was given space to wind up a shot. It took a wicked deflection and Gillespie could do nothing as he was wrong-footed with the ball zipping right at his feet. He put a hand on it but it squirmed through and bobbled over the line.
Bailey got his head over a half clearance at the start of the second half as Grainger put a long throw into the area but he gave it too much air and it flew into the Warwick.
The Grecians worked hard to keep United at bay through the early exchanges and Gillespie had to tip a thundering header from Wheeler over the bar as he made a corner his own. But he could do nothing about a low shot from the same player in the next attack as he was left completely unmarked as the ball came in from the left. It was an untidy first touch but his second bulged the back of the net.
Substitute Shaun Miller almost had a dream introduction as he danced through two challenges to bring the keeper off his line. Olejnik spread himself to take the ball off his toes.
Grainger then drilled a long range free kick over the bar as United tried to bite back, and Exeter had a goal chalked off for offside as the game swung from end to end.
It was finely balanced and Luke Joyce tried to find the top corner from the angle when he pulled off his marker, but Olejnik had it covered as he plucked it out of the air.
Carlisle threw men forward and they were back in touching distance when O'Sullivan floated a cross to the back stick. It swirled, bent and dipped and Olejnik kicked his post in frustration as it fell over his head and into the net.
And Carlisle were on level terms within seconds when Adams called for a throw to be put on his chest. He got it and popped it into the mix and a touch from Shaun Miller was enough to leave Olejnik to scream in anger once again.
United started to play some excellent stuff and a mesmerising run from Lambe saw him skip through two challenges before he set off on a sprint. Adams went past him but a great tackle stopped him from feeding it across the box.
Gillespie saved from Reid late in the day, and the big stopper saved again as he made himself big to keep the tie at all-square in time added on. But United were let off the hook when the base of the post was rattled with almost the last kick of the game.
And that was that as the combatants now take time to draw breath before they do it all again later in the week.
Carlisle United - Moore-Taylor (og 32), O'Sullivan (71), S Miller (73)
Exeter City - Grant (15), Harley (45), Wheeler (56)
Carlisle United - Raynes (19)
Exeter City - James (62)
Carlisle United - Gillespie, T Miller, Raynes (S Miller 61), Liddle, Grainger, Bailey (Waring 68), Joyce, Lambe, Devitt (O'Sullivan 57), Adams, Proctor. Subs - Crocombe, Kennedy, Gillesphey, Nabi.
Exeter City - Olejnik, Woodman (Reid 68), James, Harley, Wheeler (Stacey 77), Grant (Holmes 77), Watkins, Moore-Taylor, Taylor, Sweeney, Brown. Subs - Pym, Tillson, McAlinden, Croll.
Referee - Mr David Webb
Attendance - 9,708 (571 away fans)