The Arsenal substitute stole a yard inside the City area and fired back across goal to salvage a point for the league leaders.
Khadija 'Bunny' Shaw's effort midway through the second half looked to have been enough to give Gareth Taylor's side what would've been a deserved victory on the balance of play.
But despite City's best efforts, spearheaded by an inspired display from young stopper Khiara Keating, hopes of a statement three points were dashed in the final moments.
A vocal crowd of 2,355 turned out for a chilly night in Manchester. It was an emotional occasion with heartfelt tributes to the late Official Supporters Club member Ian Taylor, including a round of applause from the players, who also wore black armbands in commemoration, before the game.
The big team news of the night saw teenager Keating retain her place in goal, facing her toughest challenge yet to thwart an impressive Arsenal front line.
With a huge three points at stake, the nerves showed in the early stages – miscommunication between Keating and captain Steph Houghton almost allowing Beth Mead to capitalise but Alex Greenwood was alert to clear off the line.
A minute later, Keating went head-to-head with Vivianne Miedema for the first time as the Dutch striker struck an acrobatic effort, which the shot-stopper denied well.
Park then fired over the bar, having been played through by Hemp as City threatened on the counter-attack.
In a feisty and stop-start opening 45 minutes, chances were at a premium – the majority of opportunities aerial threats. A Leah Williamson header was comfortable for Keating, while Hemp, Lucy Bronze and Houghton all went close in the air.
Desperate to close the gap on the league leaders, City stepped up a gear after the break. Vicky Losada went in search of her fifth goal in five games but dragged an effort wide.
At the other end, Keating was called into action to thwart Mead and Miedema at the near post, and produced great reflexes to prevent a Greenwood own-goal and deny Miedema from netting the rebound.
Park then spurned two glorious chances - firstly firing straight at Zinsberger when played through by Hemp and then blazing high and wide on the volley.
The breakthrough would arrive in controversial fashion on 65 minutes. Although Bronze's attempted cross-field pass hit referee Abigail Byrne en route to Demi Stokes, play continued and City broke down the left through Hemp, who crossed for Shaw to slot home - much to Arsenal's frustration.
Hemp perhaps should have made it two but opted to take an extra touch, allowing Zinsberger to block, and the Gunners 'keeper did well to twice deny Caroline Weir from range.
Six minutes of stoppage time were added on at the Academy Stadium, much to the surprise of the City crowd, and the visitors capitalised at the death.
Mead picked up play inside the area, avoiding the close attentions of Stokes and Houghton, before the ball squirmed into the path of Heath on the right of the City box.
And the United States midfielder made no mistake when presented with a glimmer of an opening, smashing back across goal to ensure an exciting affair ended all square.
What it means
City remain fifth in the WSL, two points off the Champions League spots. Arsenal stay top with 26 points.
How we lined up...
Taylor made two changes to the side that triumphed over Bristol in the Continental Cup in midweek, as Demi Stokes, Keira Walsh and Park were reinstated to the starting XI in place of Laura Coombs, Filippa Angeldahl and Janine Beckie.
Teenager Keating continued in goal, shielded by a backline of Stokes, Greenwood, Houghton and Bronze.
Walsh protected the back four in defensive midfield, employed behind Georgia Stanway and Losada, while Hemp and Park occupied the wings. Shaw led the line upfront.
The game came too soon for Karima Taieb, while Hayley Raso and Alanna Kennedy are on international duty and Ellie Roebuck (calf), Karen Bardsley (hamstring), Chloe Kelly (ACL) and Esme Morgan (fracture) remain long-term absentees.
CITY XI | Keating, Stokes, Greenwood, Houghton, Bronze, Walsh, Stanway (Coombs 88'), Losada (Weir 57'), Hemp, Park, Shaw (White 74').
SUBS | Pilling, Angeldahl, Beckie, Mace, Scott.
ARSENAL XI | Zinsberger, Wubben-Moy, Williamson (Souza 46'), Nobbs (Blackstenius 72'), Mead, Little, Miedema, Maanum (Walti 63'), Parris (Heath 63'), McCabe, Maritz.
SUBS | Stenson, Beattie, Schnaderbeck, Boye, Wienroither.
Player of the Match: Khiara Keating
Facing her most difficult challenge yet against a star-studded Arsenal armoury, Keating's put in a display she can be proud of.
Overcoming an early scare, the 17-year-old produced a string of fine saves and also showcased her distribution.
Despite the late leveller, it was a performance beyond her years.
- Our last home defeat against the Gunners was back in May 2017 - a 1-0 defeat.
- After scoring 11 goals in our first seven WSL matches this season, City have netted 18 in our last five matches, winning all five and conceding just twice across them.
- This was the first FA WSL match between the two sides to end in a draw. City and Arsenal have played each other 17 times in the competition.
City return to FA Cup action with a Fourth Round trip to Nottingham Forest on Saturday 29 January. It's a 13:00 kick-off at the City Ground.
The next home game sees City host Tottenham Hotspur in the Continental Cup semi-finals on either 2/3 February.
Stay tuned to mancity.com and our official app for fixture information in the coming days.
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