It was the moment which could have ended Yassin Moutaouakil’s season.
Instead, Guy Whittingham was relieved to see the Frenchman escape with just a yellow card when a more severe punishment appeared certain.
A largely uneventful fixture with Stevenage burst into life in the 78th minute for all the wrong reasons.
Johnny Ertl reacted angrily to Anthony Grant following a challenge, and then Moutaouakil became involved with the Boro midfielder.
Stood face-to-face, the Blues right-back appeared to move his head into Grant, who reeled away dramatically.
It was an ugly moment which sparked off a mass set-to among the majority of players on the pitch, with referee Christopher Sarginson struggling to restore order.
In the aftermath, Moutaouakil and Grant were both booked – and subsequently substituted – as the match petered out into a goalless draw.
Yet Whittingham admitted he felt Moutaouakil was fortunate to escape receiving a red card, which would have automatically kept him out of Pompey’s final three matches of the season.
He said: ‘I didn’t think it was an actual headbutt, I just think their heads got together.
‘Yassin leant forward and from what I saw it wasn’t so much as a forward movement.
‘I will have to see what the referee’s report says but, obviously, it was only a yellow rather than a red so they didn’t think it was that bad.
‘You see incidents like that all the time and see a red card.
‘As soon as it happened we were trying to plan what to do if he was sent off and I was delighted he wasn’t.
‘Perhaps a bit of thought went into it from the officials. The referee had a word with the linesman and he was closest to it.
‘Yassin hasn’t reacted like that before. I haven’t asked about any stories of what went on or what was said or anything like that.
‘Both teams wanted to win, we’ve got competitive people out there, that’s why they are professional footballers, sometimes it’s sparks things off.
‘With Grant, you have players a bit like that in sides who go in to spoil things and they are good assets to have sometimes if they get away with it.
‘But I thought the referee had a good game altogether – and the one last week did as well.
‘I shook his hand and he said he enjoyed refereeing the side and we were a good side to referee and didn’t cause them problems.’
Both Pompey and Stevenage struggled to carve out chances in Saturday’s lacklustre result.
Certainly, at times, you could feel the frustration among Pompey fans during the second half at the sight of wrong decisions made in promising positions.
And it was something Whittingham put down to the youthful nature of his side.
He added: ‘There weren’t too many chances created by either side, not a lot of creativity. It was a hard-working slog, I suppose.
‘We had promising positions but didn’t make the most of them.
‘That was probably down to the inexperience of the young lads.
‘Mostly, it was them on the ball and their energy coming forwards.
‘That’s the whole reason they are out there, to learn, and we won’t be having a go at them for it.
‘We will be showing them on the DVD and through analysis what would be the better decision so they will learn from it.
‘That’s so important, the only place they can learn it is with the first team.’