A sudden-death goal in extra-time - golden for Birmingham, gruesome for the Cumbrians - had cost them the 1995 Auto Windscreens Shield. Yesterday they managed to get through the 120 minutes at Wembley without a goal and on to the penalty roulette. More heart-ache loomed as, in the same goalmouth where Paul Tait had denied them two years before, Carlisle trailed Colchester United 3-1.
However, a happy ending was in sight as Tony Caig pulled off two saves and their skipper, Steve Hayward, drilled home the winner to give Carlisle their first knock-out triumph.
It was hard on Colchester who have played the gambler's card all the way through the tournament, twice winning via the golden goal, and perhaps their luck had finally ran out just when they needed it most.
A painful ascent up the 39 steps to the Royal Box awaited Karl Duguid and Peter Cawley, who both missed from the spot, and also for Joe Dunne.
Fifteen seconds from the end of extra-time when Mark Sale's cross reached him at the far post the full-back just needed to keep his head to score. Instead he lofted his shot high over the bar.
Hayward had also been in position to end the deadlock in the 95th minute after Rod Thomas and Warren Aspinall had stretched the Colchester defence but he slipped and the chance went begging.
This cup final for the Second and Third Division sides would never claim to be a glamourous event but at least it could have provided a touch more excitement than we had here for an hour.
A five minute delay occurred at the start of the second half after Rory Delap, in attempting to fire over a cross, had demolished a corner flag. It seemed that the crowd - at 45,077 the weekend's largest - would welcome the hold-up but, no, the sight of a Wembley ground-staffer emerging from the tunnel with a replacement held high over his shoulder brought the biggest cheer of the afternoon to date and from then on we had a contest worthy of the setting.
Both Aspinall and Steve Whitton might have scored but on to penalties it went and the contrasting emotions.
Colchester will be hoping to put their disappointment aside to claim a play-off place from the Third Division while Carlisle want to round off their season with the championship. "If we do that it will make it a special double," said their manager, Mervyn Day.
n It emerged after the game that Michael Knighton, the Carlisle chairman, had last week threatened to pull his side out of the final as a protest over their share of the television money. The Football League responded by saying such action would lead to Carlisle being thrown out of the league.
Carlisle United (3-5-2): Caig; Walling, Varty, Pounewatchy; Delap, Hayward, Aspinall, Conway, Archdeacon; Smart (Thomas, 24; Jansen, 95), Peacock. Substitute not used: Hopper.
Colchester United (4-4-2): Emberson; Dunne, Greene, Cawley, Gibbs (Fry, 105); Gregory (Locke, 85), Wilkins, Whitton, Abrahams (Duguid, 91); Adcock, Sale.
Referee: J Kirkby (Sheffield).
Bookings: Carlisle: Conway, Aspinall, Hayward. Colchester: Greene Gregory, Cawley, Dunne, Gibbs.
Man of the match: Pounewatchy.
Attendance: 45,077 (at Wembley).