Forty-year-old substitute Aaron Wilbraham earned League One side Rochdale an FA Cup replay at Premier League Newcastle United after a dramatic late equaliser.
Miguel Almiron’s fierce first-half finish looked to have booked the Magpies’ place in the fourth round.
But Wilbraham left Rochdale fans celebrating when he finished from close range after a run and pass by 17-year-old Luke Matheson, who scored at Manchester United in the Carabao Cup in September.
Newcastle boss Steve Bruce had been hit by a lengthy injury list before the tie, but the visitors dominated for long spells and it was no surprise the team 49 places up the ladder took the lead – Almiron pouncing after Christian Atsu’s cutback.
Rochdale keeper Robert Sanchez produced fine stops to prevent Joelinton and Yoshinori Muto increasing the lead, while Magpies keeper Martin Dubravka kept out former Manchester United youth player Oliver Rathbone.
Dale skipper Ian Henderson hit the post after Rathbone’s shot was parried by Dubravka, before the impressive Rathbone was again denied by a smart save from the Newcastle keeper.
However, Rochdale earned a money-spinning replay at St James’ Park thanks to Wilbraham’s tidy finish – and Rathbone even went close to a winner in the closing stages.
Battling Rochdale give Magpies a scare
Rochdale fans stayed to applaud their team off the pitch at the final whistle after the third-tier club earned a second FA Cup replay against a top-flight side in two years.
In 2018, they forced a 2-2 draw against Tottenham Hotspur before losing the return at Wembley.
Against Newcastle, Brian Barry-Murphy’s team – who are just four points above the League One relegation zone – came back strongly after being dominated in the first half.
Newcastle should have had the tie sewn up by the interval but were made to pay for their misses by veteran forward Wilbraham.
The former Crystal Palace and Bristol City player produced an instinctive finish from Matheson’s pass as substitutes 23 years apart in age combined.
It might have been even better for the hosts – the eye-catching Rathbone firing just wide in the dying moments as the Magpies were made to hang on by hard-working Rochdale.
Newcastle made to pay for missed chances
Newcastle are six-time FA Cup winners but have disappointed repeatedly in the competition in recent seasons, failing to reach the fifth round since 2006.
That prompted Bruce, a three-time winner in his playing days with Manchester United, to state on his appointment as Magpies boss in July 2019 that a healthy cup run was one of his priorities.
Having gone out of the Carabao Cup at the first hurdle earlier this season, Bruce is keen to make a mark in the FA Cup – yet his side were thankful for a replay by the end after a rousing Rochdale fightback.
The Magpies had to prepare for this tie against the backdrop of a string of injuries to key players, but their manager was still able to field six players who started the last Premier League game against Leicester City on Wednesday.
In addition, Almiron, Dubravka, Federico Fernandez and Joelinton were starting their fourth games in the space of 10 days.
Atsu started brightly and it was his cutback which allowed Almiron to score his second goal of the season – a powerful strike as Rochdale backed off.
Newcastle dominated possession and carved out chance after chance but were unable to finish off their opponents.
In the end they were made to pay as Wilbraham struck to ensure both teams will meet again to decide who makes it through to the fourth round.
Man of the match – Oliver Rathbone (Rochdale)
More to follow.