Darlington's heart had provided more than a match for a home side whose form reflected the air of despondency enveloping Maine Road.
With City's direct approach failing to fashion clear openings, penalties appeared a certainty. On the back of that Auto Windscreen Shield defeat by Mansfield last week, that would have been too much to bear for the 8,595 supporters. Instead, a trip to Wimbledon in the third round of the FA Cup might just provide the lift that the club craves.
Darlington will no doubt highlight the loss of their manager, Dave Hodgson, dismissed from the touchline, as a turning point: the goal almost immediately followed his departure. The extra space also provided by the dismissal of the Darlington captain, Marco Gabbiadini, and the City substitute Danny Tiatto for a flare-up in extra time was another contributory factor as City suddenly began to exploit the gap. Previously, an emphasis on the aerial route to goal to serve a physical front three had been foiled by a poor final ball. Indeed, the home side were lucky to survive a major scare in the opening minutes and the best chance of the scheduled 90 minutes.
A shot from Glenn Naylor ballooned out of a flimsy Gerard Wiekens challenge, over the goalkeeper Nicky Weaver and on to the City bar. But Naylor bundled the gift of a rebound wide of the mark.
Although City slowly exerted a stranglehold on midfield there was little reward to show until they took the lead. And the home side survived another scare before extra time, when Michael Oliver almost slipped past the approaching Weaver to set up a clear run on the home goal.
Manchester City (4-3-3): Weaver; Crooks, Morrison (Bishop, 85), Wiekens, Edghill; Brown, Pollock, Horlock; Goater (Dickov, 69), Taylor, Russell (Tiatto, 61). Substitutes not used: Wright (gk), Jim Whitley.
Darlington (5-3-2): Preece; Brumwell, Tuthill, Liddle, Bennett, Barnard; Leah (Carter, 69; Dorner, 105), Gaughan, Oliver; Gabbiadini, Naylor. Substitutes not used: Samways (gk), Pepper, Dorner, Campbell.
Referee: B Knight (Orpington).Reuse content