A tale of three penalties - two given, one refused, one scored, one saved and all three contested - and in the shakedown Derby saw their nine-match unbeaten run come to an end after defeat by the team against whom they had started it. Goals from two loanees, Kevin Gallen and Scott Sinclair, bookended a highly impressive Plymouth performance as they reached the quarter-finals for the first time since 1984.
"I'm as chuffed as a badger at the start of the mating season," said the Plymouth manager, Ian Holloway, who has now reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup for the first time in his career. "It was a terrific performance.
"From the second I walked out, the fans were electric, and our lads gave them something to be electric about. We were positive and forceful, and in the first half they struggled to contain us. And we had the rub of the green - at last."
That was what troubled the Derby manager, Billy Davies. Of the three penalty decisions the referee, Mike Dean, had to make, the only one he did not give was the one that looked most obvious, Marcel Seip seeming to block a Jon Macken shot with his arm, albeit from close range.
By then Dean had already given Plymouth two chances from the spot, first as Gallen tumbled following a tussle with Dean Leacock, then after Darren Moore held down Krisztian Timar as they jumped for a corner. "At the time I raised my eyebrows," Davies said. "It looked soft. I'm very much looking forward to seeing it again."
Gallen converted the first, after 12 minutes, via Stephen Bywater's palms and the post, but, after Bywater had ostentatiously stood at the point where the first penalty crossed the line, Gallen saw the keeper palm away his second effort.
The 31-year-old was also the key figure in Dean's other major decision, as he showed two yellow cards to the Derby captain, Moore, in the space of three minutes, the first for an ugly lunge on Lilian Nalis, the second for an off-the-ball clash with Gallen.
"If I'm understanding a very honest player, Darren Moore, correctly, he's said Gallen's backed into him and gone down easily," Davies said. "If that is so, then he's conned the referee."
Holloway was also seeking a video of the incident last night. "I don't like players falling over - it took more than that to knock me over, and I'm a lot shorter than him, but that's modern football," he said.
"But if I look at that and think he's done wrong I'm going to fine him." For all the controversy, though, Plymouth's superiority was not in doubt, particularly in the first half, something Davies acknowledged.
"Yes, we had the rub of the green," Holloway said, "but we've earned the right to have things go our way. If you put the back four under pressure, they make mistakes. This was without question the best home performance I have seen here. We have to make this place a fortress."
There will be few teams now relishing a trip to Home Park in the quarter-finals.
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