Mark McGhee would doubtless settle for promotion via the play-offs in the new First Division, but at least his latter-day Wanderers emulated Stan Cullis's old gold glory boys by accounting for the Quakers on the Wembley road last night.
They did so in a less impressive manner than the scoreline suggests. As David Hodgson, Darlington's manager, was left to lament: "Even 2-0 would not have been a fair reflection."
Hodgson's team may be 61 places below McGhee's in the Nationwide League but they were the better side for much of the third-round contest. It took three cruel twists to snatch the prospect of a giantkilling, albeit a sleeping giant-killing, from their eager grasp.
Even Dougie Freedman's 18th-minute opener, a finely struck 25-yard shot, failed to knock them out their stride. With Steve Gaughan controlling midfield, the Quakers had their opponents quaking from the moment Mario Dorner sent Mike Stowell scrambling to claw away his ninth-minute shot on the turn.
Dorner also had a half-volley headed off the line by Mark Atkins, Michael Oliver crashed a 20-yard drive off Stowell's left-hand post and Darren Roberts - a former Wolves player in Darlington clothing - shot high, wide and distinctly unhandsome after Gaughan put the goal at his mercy.
Darlington could only count the cost of such near misses when David Preece literally dropped victory into the lap of a grateful Wolves after 65 minutes. The Darlington goalkeeper failed to hold a back header by Andy Crosby and the ball dropped invitingly for Mixu Paatelainen to claim a gift of a goal with a tap-in finish. Nobly as they continued to strive, Hodgson's men could not recover from that blow. Their spirits, though, did not sink until Darren Ferguson took advantage of their tiring legs in the four minutes of injury time.
First Fergie Jnr broke clear to shoot his side's third goal. Then he raced down the right and crossed for Paatelainen to head a goal that gave the scoreline a truly distorted look.
Darlington (4-4-2): Preece; Shaw, De Vos, Crosby (Brumwell, 85), Barnard (P Robinson, 74); Atkinson, G Naylor (Resch, 74), Gaughan, Oliver; Dorner, Roberts. Substitutes not used: Turnbull, Stephenson (gk).
Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-2): Stowell; Muscat, Richards, Curle, Froggatt; C Robinson (Daley, 72), Sedgley, Atkins, Ferguson; Goodman (Paatelainen, 28), Freedman. Substitutes not used: Keane, L Naylor, Segers (gk).
Referee: G Bain (Liverpool).Reuse content