Preston North End clinched their place in the northern area semi-final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy with a penalty shoot-out victory over Oldham Athletic at Boundary Park.
Goalkeeper Thorsten Stuckmann scored the winning penalty in a marathon shoot-out which took place at the end of the ground where PNE’s 636 travelling fans were congregated.
It lifted the mood at the club after a day in which Joe Garner had been ruled out of action for up to four months with a knee injury while Callum Robinson was recalled by Aston Villa just four hours before the game.
The 90 minutes had produced a 2-2 draw, Scott Laird giving the Lilywhites a first-half lead with a diving header.
Danny Philliskirk and Dominic Poleon scored in the first 15 minutes of the second period to put Oldham in the driving seat.
But Tom Clarke equalised in the 80th minute to take the game into the shoot-out.
Laird scored PNE’s first penalty, Kevin Davies seeing the second saved.
Neil Kilkenny, Will Hayhurst, Jermaine Beckford, John Welsh, Kyel Reid, David Buchanan. Scott Wiseman and Paul Huntington all scored.
When Oldham keeper Neil Etheridge put his penalty over the spot at 9-9 it was left to Stuckmann - who had saved earlier in the shoot-out from Mike Jones - to slam his into the roof of the net.
Simon Grayson had made six changes to the North End starting XI from the one which won at Bristol City at the weekend.
Into the side came Beckford for his PNE debut after signing on loan from Bolton Wanderers.
He was joined by Laird, Davies, Reid, Jack King and Josh Brownhill who were all on the bench for Saturday’s 1-0 victory at Bristol City.
The visitors lined-up in a 3-4-1-2 system, Tom Clarke, King and Huntington the three centre-backs.
Scott Wiseman and Laird were in the wing-back roles, either side of holding pair John Welsh and Josh Brownhill.
Reid played in an advanced midfield role behind front two Davies and Beckford.
North End started the game strongly, carving out some decent opportunities in the early stages.
With less than three minutes on the clock, Reid volleyed over the bar from 12 yards after Beckford had headed the ball down into his path.
A low angled shot from Beckford across the box was parried by Neil Etheridge at the far post, the Latics keeper then grabbing the loose ball as Davies closed in looking for the rebound.
After quarter of an hour Welsh was brought down a yard outside the box after surging forward from midfield.
Reid took the free-kick, chipping it left-footed over the wall but a couple of inches too high with it landing on the top of the net.
After that strong spell, Oldham gradually started to work their way back into the game as the half-hour mark approached.
Jones’ free-kick taken right-footed from the left channel bounced dangerously across the box and just wide of the back post.
Then Joseph Mills, once a PNE trialist, beat Wiseman down the side of the box but pulled his shot wide.
Preston went ahead in 11 minutes before the interval, Beckford chasing a cross-field pass down the left-wing.
His cross was over-hit and travelled across to the right hand side of the pitch to Wiseman.
The Gibraltar international laid it back to Clarke who lifted a fine cross into the box which Laird met with a diving header from six yards.
In first-half stoppage-time, a speculative Brownhill shot from wide on the right went straight at Etheridge.
Oldham made all three of their substitutions at half-time, Jonathan Forte, Brian Wilson and Liam Kelly joining the action.
The switch paid immediate dividends with Forte setting up the home side’s equaliser just 46 seconds into the second period.
Forte drove over a low centre which evaded three PNE defenders and fell to POLEON at the far post who turned a low shot past Stuckmann.
Soon after, North End could have fallen behind, Mills hitting a swerving shot from 25 yards which Stuckmann saw late and parried away.
The ball flew out to Poleon who struck a first-time shot which flew inches over the bar.
North End rattled the woodwork in the 57th minute, Laird’s free-kick on the right lifted into the middle where Davies sent a header against the far post.
But after going so close, they found themselves trailing for the first time in the contest as the hour mark was reached.
A cross from Mills picked out Forte in the box, his pass down the side of the PNE defence tucked away by Philliskirk from eight yards.
Only a fine save from Etheridge prevented a quick equaliser, Davies’ cross with the outside of his boot met by Beckford, his header looking destined for the roof of the net until the keeper sprung back to tip it over the bar.
A double substitute from North End saw Kilkenny and Hayhurst replace King and Brownhill.
The change brought about a change in formation, the visitors going to a flat back four in a 4-4-2.
In the 70th minute Laird came close to his second goal of the game in slightly bizarre circumstances.
A clearance from Timothee Dieng banged against his shin and ricocheted just wide of the post.
North End equalised in the 80th minute, Dieng’s foul on Kilkenny earning the Oldham man a yellow card and PNE a free-kick.
Kilkenny hoisted the free-kick over the back post, Huntington rising to meet it and heading goalwards.
Etheridge dived to block but Clarke was there to force it over the line from a couple of yards out.
That was the skipper’s action last involvement of the night, a knock forcing him to limp off soon after - David Buchanan replacing him.
As the game moved into stoppage-time, Davies sliced a volley wide from eight yards.
The shoot-out was long and dramatic, PNE winning through and will now play either Notts County or Doncaster next month.
Oldham: Etheridge, Kusunga, Dieng, J Wilson, Mills, Winchester (B Wilson 56), Dayton (Forte 46), Tidser (Kelly 46), Jones, Philliskirk, Poleon. Subs not used: Mellor, Rachubka.
Booked: Dieng 79
PNE: Stuckmann, Clarke (Buchanan 86), King (Kilkenny 62), Huntington, Wiseman, Welsh, Brownhill (Hayhurst 62), Reid, Laird, Beckford, K Davies. Subs not used: Ryan, Jones.
Booked: Clarke 68
Referee: Tony Harrington (Cleveland)
Attendance: 3,056 (636 PNE)