Tranmere 2-1 Watford
They needed extra-time to do it but Tranmere saw off Premier League Watford to set up a clash with Manchester United.
Three goals down in the first instalment of this third round tie, Tranmere were excellent on a very difficult surface and they’ll relish the chance to test out the Red Devils on it come Sunday.
Emmanuel Monthe had the home side in front at half-time, though substitute Kaylen Hinds scrambled Watford on terms midway through the second half.
Inseparable in normal time, the hosts made the decisive move at the end of the opening 15 minutes of extra-time when Connor Jennings headed home from close range.
Having lost 2-1 at Aston Villa in Premier League duty only 48 hours earlier, Hornets boss Nigel Pearson made a full quota of 11 changes to his starting side.
Tranmere, 19th in League One and seemingly dead and buried when they trailed 0-3 in the original game at Vicarage Road, were buoyed on as manager Micky Mellon admitted before kick-off that ‘no more motivation should be needed’ than knowing Manchester United awaited the winners in round four.
The home side set about their task from the off, with Jake Caprice alert early on, as Watford were given little time to settle in possession.
Morgan Ferrier and Corey Blackett-Taylor both tested the visitors resolve as the game took shape, while Joao Pedro scooped over at the other end with the best of Watford’s early chances.
It took until nine minutes before half-time for the breakthrough and it was Tranmere earned it from a set piece.
Blackett-Taylor’s delivery was flicked on at the near post and Monthe was there to apply the finish.
Joao Pedro had a great chance to draw Watford level six minutes after the re-start but he couldn’t beat Scott Davies
Just beyond the hour, Jose Holebas came within inches of levelling. His initial free-kick was deflected back into his path and, from a tight angle, his crisp shot came off the upright.
When Watford did draw level on 68 minutes it was a much messier affair. Davies fumbled a corner and substitute Hinds was on hand to squeeze the ball in at the near post to put the Premier League side on terms.
Mullin almost restored Tranmere’s advantage within three minutes, rounding Daniel Bachmann but seeing his shot from a tough angle come back off the post.
With extra-time imminent, Neil Danns almost won it for Watford inside three minutes of stoppage time but he pulled a shot wide.
With 180 minutes unable to find a winner, 30 minutes more was called for and once more Tranmere responded to their challenge.
Liam Ridehalgh’s cross into the area was flicked on by sub Mullin and Jennings made no mistake, heading home from six yards to send Prenton Park into raptures just before half-time in extra-time.
Watford introduced Henry Wise, son of Dennis Wise, for the final 15 minutes in pursuit of parity.
In truth, they rarely looked like getting there and so Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his beleaguered Manchester United side are heading to the sand and mud of Prenton Park’s patch surface on Sunday for an FA Cup showdown with Tranmere.