Darlington boss Alun Armstrong did not know whether to laugh or cry after his National League North side snatched an FA Cup replay with the last kick of a thrilling 2-2 draw at Walsall.
The underdogs led through Omar Holness’ early strike but needed Joe Wheatley’s leveller seven minutes into added time to take the tie back to the north east.
League Two Walsall had looked doomed when Dan Scarr was sent off eight minutes from time but Caolan Lavery levelled and Darlington goalkeeper Liam Connell punched Alfie Bates’ corner into his own net.
Darlington defender Ben Hedley then saw red but Wheatley tucked home Osagi Bascome’s free-kick to equalise.
Armstrong, whose side were in the first round proper for the first time since the club were demoted to the Northern League in 2012, said: “That’s what the FA Cup seems to bring, moments like that.
“It’s tinged with disappointment that we haven’t won it but here I am standing delighted that we drew. It’s so surreal.
“I was absolutely distraught. I thought we had blown the opportunity after being so good all game. I thought we dealt with everything that they threw at us.
“Now we’ve got to finish the job at home. It’s going to be tough and we have to make sure we put in another performance like that.
“I’m probably going to have to stop my two Bermudans (Bascome and Justin Donawa) going on international duty because now Ben’s suspended I will only have one player left on the bench.
“It’s been a long time coming for this football club but we want to keep progressing and if we can manage to nick a win in the replay we can progress a little bit quicker.”
Walsall, on a run of six straight losses, wasted many chances with Elijah Adebayo and Rory Gaffney the main culprits.
Boss Darrell Clarke admitted he is under “massive pressure”, adding: “We found some way to chuck away a game that we should win.
“We are running the ball into the corner at 2-1 up – I would rather us go and score the third goal, that’s my mindset.
“You watch in disbelief sometimes at the chances you keep throwing away. I don’t think they are used to being winners, I don’t know if some of them know how to win.
“The lads, at the minute, are finding a way not to win football matches – there’s a softness about the mentality which frustrates me.
“You’ve got to give Darlington credit, I’m not going to say they didn’t deserve a replay as they have had a few chances themselves, but we’ve had a lot more golden chances and not taken them.
“We’ve got to go up there and be professional. We didn’t take Darlington lightly and we will be going up there with massive respect for them.”