League Cup holders Manchester United were just two minutes away from a penalty shoot-out before seeing off minnows Crewe 2-1 in a dramatic third round tie at Gresty Road on Wednesday.
It seemed the match, which finished level at 1-1 after 90 minutes, was heading to a spot-kick climax when late in extra-time teenager Kieran Lee, on his senior debut for the Premiership leaders, scored with a shot across former United keeper Ben Williams.
"We were very lucky, credit to Crewe they were the better team," admitted United manager Sir Alex Ferguson whose side now travel to Championship club Southend in the last 16.
"We were a bit careless right from the start and gave Crewe a foothold in the game. Football never changes. It's an amazing game. We had seven internationals out there, you expect them to win. But it's the old story, you have to work hard," he said.
United, fielded a completely different starting line-up to the one that beat Liverpool in the league last weekend.
But Ferguson also told Sky Sports: "That's no excuse, we should hope for a better performances from all the team."
Early on Crewe, two divisions below the Premiership leaders, competed well but they went behind to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's brilliant shot from inside the box after a cross from Ritchie Jones in the 26th minute.
However, Crewe threw the tie wide open when Luke Varney levelled 17 minutes from time with his fifth goal in five games.
Nicky Maynard's pass found Varney inside the penalty area and his shot beat keeper Tomasz Kuszczak.
The match at Gresty Road pitted two of English football's longest-serving managers against one another.
Ferguson has been in charge of United for nearly 20 years but Dario Gradi has been Crewe's manager for 23.
"In a strange way I feel satisfied," said Gradi, renowned for giving gifted young players such as ex-England international David Platt their chance in league football. "I asked for a memorable game and I got it, there's no doubt about that."
Both sides had chances in extra-time before Alan Smith, making his first start since sustaining a severe ankle injury against Liverpool last season, played in Lee who finished in fine style.
In the all-Premiership clashes, champions Chelsea beat Blackburn Rovers 2-0, Liverpool survived some late defensive lapses to see off top-flight newboys Reading 4-3, bottom of the table Charlton enjoyed a morale-boosting 1-0 win at home to Bolton and Newcastle were comfortable 3-0 winners over Portsmouth.
Meanwhile Tottenham made light of a potentially tricky tie with a 5-0 win away to League Two MK Dons.