THE Blues paid the price for a dreadful second-half performance as the Tigers fought back to earn an FA Trophy draw that looked highly unlikely at half-time.
Two early goals from Nathan Jarman put Neil Young’s side in firm control at the break.
But they completely lost their way after the restart and lower-league Worksop fully deserved to take the third qualifying round tie to a replay.
The replay will take place at the Nottinghamshire outfit's Sandy Lane home on Wednesday (7.45pm) and means Chester’s scheduled league match at home to Corby Town on the same night has been postponed.
Blues boss Young resisted the temptation to start new signing Craig Curran or continue with Tony Gray after he scored his first goal for the club in midweek.
Young – who was down to just 14 fit and available senior players – instead restored Jarman and Marc Williams to his frontline.
Jarman repaid his manager’s faith by scoring two goals inside the first 15 minutes. His first, five minutes in, was simplicity itself.
Levi Mackin – standing in at right-back after Wes Baynes and Luke Denson were ruled out by illness and injury respectively – cut inside on to his left foot and floated an innocuous cross into the box.
Jarman, however, was able to get the wrong side of his static marker and sent a downward header into the bottom corner of the net.
Worksop’s 42-year-old goalkeeper Paul Bastock was beaten by the same player 10 minutes later.
Jarman ran on to a perfectly weighted through pass from Antoni Sarcevic and dinked an impudent finish over the former Boston United number one to take his tally for the term up to eight.
Jarman was in the mood and he went desperately close to completing his hat-trick in first-half injury-time.
The striker brought down a long ball by John Danby before turning and firing a thunderous left-footed effort that crashed against the woodwork.
Chester, who beat their opponents 3-0 and 2-0 on their way to winning promotion last season, played some attractive football in the opening period and only low saves from Bastock prevented Iain Howard and Dave Hankin from finishing off flowing moves.
The Tigers, who have won six of their last nine Northern Premier League Premier Division matches, were distinctly second best although their captain Steve Towers did go close with a well-hit drive that flashed past the post.
The Exacta Stadium faithful were treated to an on-pitch appearance at half-time by London 2012 Olympic bronze medal-winning gymnast – and former Queen’s School Chester student – Beth Tweddle and Match of the Day 2 host Colin Murray, who has sponsored the Chester FC Ladies kit.
They were given an excellent reception by the sparse 1,410 crowd, the majority of which were stunned into silence when Worksop reduced the deficit eight minutes after the restart.
There appeared to be little danger when Danby rushed out of his area to deal with a long ball over the top.
But the goalkeeper made a hash of his clearance and Leon Mettam was able to roll the ball into the empty goal.
Most disappointingly for Young, his side did not respond in the right fashion.
They became disjoined and careless in possession and it came as no surprise when the much-improved Tigers equalised 12 minutes from time.
What a fine goal it was too as a cross from the right was confidently swept home from 18 yards by Ash Burbeary.
A game that should have been dead and buried was now on a knife-edge.
Sarcevic clipped the crossbar after a strong run before Owain Warlow blazed over when well placed at the other end.
But neither team could find a winner and a replay will be needed to decide which progresses into the first round proper, the draw for which is on Monday.
Chester: Danby, Mackin, Collins, Linwood, Clancy, Hankin, A Williams, Sarcevic, Howard (Curran 59), Jarman (Gray 82), M Williams. Subs: Fearon, Horan, Miller.
Goals: Jarman 5, 15.
Worksop: Bastock, Clarke, Miller, Hawes, Warlow, Beeson (Ludlam 74), Young, Towers, King, Burbeary (Menga 88), Mettam (Sheils 83). Subs: Wood, Telling.
Goals: Mettam 53, Burbeary 78.
Referee: Ian Hussin (West Derby).