In an entertaining clash between two sides in the drop zone early in the League One campaign, the hosts were unable to build on Sam Cosgrove’s 19th-minute opener - the first time in 10 games they have netted an opener this term.
Steve Cotterill’s men were pulled back on the stroke of half-time, as former loan striker Mikael Mandron found the far corner with a neat close-range finish.
Town find themselves 21st in the table after seven games following their first draw of the league campaign on an afternoon where chances came and went in either direction as both sides could have easily popped up with a winner in an open yet edgy finale.
Crewe ended a run of four-and-a-half league games without a goal as Mandron struck but for Salop a wait for a clean sheet goes on. They are now 11 games without a shutout stretching one game into last season.
The visitors, backed by a boisterous away end of more than 1,000 travelling fans, were the better side after the break following a change of formation by Cotterill and went closest to winning it. Mandron wasted several late chances while Scott Kashket also went close.
For Shrewsbury, who made it two home games without defeat in the league, substitute Ryan Bowman went closest with a header from a corner somehow saved by Will Jaaskelainen.
A mammoth 10 minutes of stoppage time were added due to a lengthy second-half injury but, despite several set-pieces and moments of apparent danger in either box, nobody was able to pop up with a winner.
Cotterill made two changes to the side who went down 1-0 to an early Accrington winner last weekend.
David Davis returned to central midfield following a one-match ban. Luke Leahy shifted back out to left-back as George Nurse made way.
The other change was in attack, where Shaun Whalley came in for Daniel Udoh, who dropped to the bench against his former side.
Whalley’s inclusion from the off followed the trend of popular No.7s making a return to starting line-ups in English football today.
Cotterill shuffled his formation options and lined Town up in a 4-3-3 system, with Matt Pennington at right-back and Elliott Bennett in central midfield.
Town’s bench, which included strikers Udoh, Ryan Bowman and Rekeil Pyke, was missing Leicester loanee Khanya Leshabela, who was left out.
David Artell’s Alex have endured a similarly difficult start to the league campaign following a summer of upheaval in which stars Harry Pickering, Ryan Wintle, Owen Dale and Charlie Kirk all departed.
Following a win on the opening day, Crewe have lost four on the bounce in the league and not scored. Their last fixture was 11 days ago, owing to the international break, a last-gasp 1-0 win at Montgomery Waters Meadow in the Papa John’s Trophy.
Artell made eight changes from the side that played that night on an evening which coincided with deadline day.
He included late window additions Scott Kashket, from Wycombe, Scott Robertson on loan from Celtic and J’Neil Bennett, a loan from Tottenham.
On what felt like a significant early-season afternoon for both teams, the visiting Crewe following made good noise approaching kick-off.
It was the visitors who were the more threatening in the opening exchanges of an open clash.
Town were fortunate, for what would’ve been the 10th occasion in 10 games this season, not to fall behind first and to a sloppy goal at that.
With the hosts settling into a back four, Crewe overloaded down the left between Bennett and left wing-back Rio Adebisi, who crossed low for Kashket, with the new boy’s effort turned round low at his near post by Marko Marosi.
Shrews failed to heed that early warning as Alex defender Donervon Daniels skied a presentable opening from an uncleared corner shortly afterwards.
But Town, through Whalley down the left and Tom Bloxham on the right, looked sharp themselves and offered early encouragement in the new 4-3-3 shape.
An early chance to break from Bennett in midfield was cynically ended by Crewe’s Adebisi, who was rightly cautioned.
Whalley was offered a reminder on the importance of tracking bad as Crewe right wing-back Kayne Ramsay, formerly of Shrewsbury, was offered far too much room to attack. His low strike was tame, but Marosi spilled it and got fortunate with the rebound.
Both sides had their moments early on but it was Shrewsbury, for the first time this season, who made the breakthrough.
That sentence has been a long time coming this season but Town worked an excellent move down the left to carve out their opener.
Following some patient play, Josh Vela picked out a delighted through ball to release Leahy to the byline, and the full-back’s low cross was met by Cosgrove at the near post who turned a scrambled effort goalwards.
Keeper Jaaskelainen appeared to get something on the attempt, but the rebound appeared to fortuitously bounce off the Birmingham loanee and over the line from close range.
Cotterill’s reaction to the opener was a sight to behold. He lauded Vela’s penetrative pass to the byline, turning around to almost celebrate the ball, as if it was a ploy Town had worked on all week. The plan worked.
The opener didn’t dampen a watchable contest. Crewe’s standout player was talented Spurs loanee Bennett on the left flank posed a threat.
He cut in sharply from the left flank and his low curled strike was only parried by Marosi at the far post.
The hosts continued to pose a threat of their own and Bennett drew a fine parried save from Jaaskelainen after he drove from midfield and let fly from 20 yards.
A contest was a competitive one, cautions for the aggressive Pennington and Crewe skipper Luke Murphy followed in the matter of moments.
Crewe remained a threat too and only a couple of excellent timely Ethan Ebanks-Landell interceptions kept the visitors at bay. One was a last-ditch challenge on Mandron, who had been anonymous for 40 minutes.
But the brief former Salop loanee burst into life, much to Shrews’ detriment, a minute before the break.
A Crewe midfielder worked his way through the middle of the park and picked out a fine through ball to play Mandron in on goal. The forward had slipped past his defenders and, slightly left of goal, picked out a fine finish across Marosi and into the far corner.
The goal arrived at a terrible time from a Town point of view. And it could’ve been worse had left wing-back Adebisi been able to deliver when free in the box.
Cotterill switched up his side’s formation at half-time, as Town emerged for the second half in a 3-4-3 system, with the back three flanked by wing-backs tasked to work forward as well as defend.
It was the visitors who started the second half in the ascendancy. A strike from distance was deflected wide of goal when it could’ve dropped anywhere, before defender Terell Thomas was unable to direct a header goalwards from the impressive Robertson’s cross.
The second half was not helped as a spectacle by a lengthy head injury for Crewe’s Robertson, for all of six or seven minutes. Cotterill responded by sending on Udoh for Bloxham. Aaron Pierre then became the third of Town’s three centre-backs in referee Samuel Barrott’s notebook.
Crewe were the brighter side following the pause in play and should have made it count for something with 20 minutes left.
Cosgrove was sloppily caught in possession in the middle of the pitch and Mandron fed Bennett, unmarked on the left side of the box, but the wideman wanted too much time and then blazed wildly over under pressure.
Seconds later big Frenchman Mandron, a brief loanee under Micky Mellon in 2014/15, crashed a half-volley into the side netting from a narrow angle.
One-way traffic ensued in the contest’s final quarter as Crewe upped the ante and began laying siege to the Town box.
Marosi let his side off the hook with a big low save from Kashket in the box after the Alex forward had been found in space.
Crewe recycled the cross and Mandron was picked out at the far post, where he somehow headed into the side netting.
Shrews, who worryingly lost Pierre to an injury, were dragged up the pitch by the influential Vela and, via a free-kick in a promising wide position, almost stole the lead.
Leahy’s dead ball delivery was on the money and the flying frame of Bowman appeared to have turned home a bullet close-range header but for a huge save from Jaaskelainen.
An entertaining clash became particularly stretched into the final 10 minutes, with the points in the balance and both sides charging forward. Whalley found the side netting with a low shot at the back post after Bowman ended up on the deck from a cross from the right.
The start of nine minutes added time - which became 10 by the time referee Barrott blew for full-time - initiated more goalmouth drama in an extremely tense and edgy finale.
Pennington made a goal-saving intervention from his side to deny Mandron, who was played through on goal, before ambitious appeals for a penalty on the Town defender were waved away by Barrott.
Bowman, who was busy, was then played in on goal via a high ball but, albeit from a difficult tight angle, could only shoot tamely at the Crewe keeper.
Four minutes into time added on came the moment for either side to win it and it fell to the visitors.
Mandron worked space inside the Town box again after a knockdown from sub Chris Porter and - mercifully for Shrewsbury - his low deflected striker flew just inches wide of Marosi’s right post, before crashing the stanchion and tantalisingly rippling the back of the Salop net.
Play went on and on for an age but nothing was doing for either side. Barrott’s whistle signalled a point apiece to a mixture of applause and murmurs of boos and discontent from home fans following Town’s return of four points from a possible 21 so far.
Shrewsbury Town (4-3-3):
Marosi; Pennington, Ebanks-Landell ©, Pierre (Nurse, 76), Leahy; Bennett, Vela, Davis; Whalley, Cosgrove (Bowman, 71), Bloxham (Udoh, 64).
Subs not used: Gregory, Daniels, Ogbeta, Pyke.
Crewe Alexandra (3-4-3):
Jaaskelainen; Thomas, Offord, Daniels; Ramsay, Murphy ©, Robertson, Adebisi (McFadzean, 90+4); Kashket (Porter, 86), Mandron, Bennett (Finney, 90+4).
Subs not used: Richards, Ainley, Lundstram, Sass-Davies.
Referee: Samuel Barrott
Attendance: 5,867 (1,071 Crewe fans)