Charlton Athletic clinched a place in the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup on penalties to deny League One side Chesterfield a hat-trick of Premiership victims after a pulsating tie in which Iain Dowie's side twice came from behind in normal time, took the lead in extra time but were forced into a shoot-out when Roy McFarland's team equalised in the last of the additional 30 minutes.
It was the England Under-21 goalkeeper Scott Carson who ultimately spared Charlton another dose of embarrassment in a season which has seen them slip to the bottom of the Premiership table, saving two spot-kicks. Thanks to his success in first preventing Derek Niven from stretching Chesterfield's shoot out lead to 3-1 and then denying Mark Allott at 3-3, followed by Hermann Hreidarsson's decisive spot- kick, Dowie was able to praise the spirit his side had discovered to fight back in normal time.
"We could have buckled after going behind twice but the players deserve praise for showing the character to battle back," he said, admitting it was a relief to progress. "You can ask Manchester City and West Ham about that. It was hard and I know I would have taken some flak if we had lost but that comes with the territory."
Charlton had fallen behind within seconds at the beginning of each half in normal time as Chesterfield sought to repeat their victories over Manchester City and West Ham in earlier rounds but looked to have avoided falling foul of the giant-killers after Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's second goal of the night three minutes into extra time. But the Chesterfield substitute Wayne Allison headed in a minute from the end of the additional period to make penalties necessary.
Colin Larkin had struck for Chesterfield after 107 seconds of the first half, with Caleb Folan adding to his goals against Manchester City and West Ham United after only 78 seconds of the second. However, after Hasselbaink had cancelled out the League One side's opening strike, Charlton's top scorer Darren Bent was sent on from the bench to score his eighth goal of the season to take the tie into extra time.
If Dowie had been wary of Chesterfield pulling off another upset, it did not stop him resting a number of important players, among them Darren Bent, whose goal against Manchester City last Saturday had secured only a second Premiership win of the season for the south London side.
Larkin's opener for the home side looked like a piece of brilliant innovation, the striker's flick at the near post from what looked like a mishit corner turning into an extraordinary goal from the tightest of angles.
Chesterfield were the brighter side in the first half but a moment of slack marking allowed Hasselbaink space to pick his spot five minutes before half-time, their collective error compounded when the goalkeeper Barry Roche appeared to dive late.
Folan restored the home side's advantage when Charlton were caught cold a second time within moments of the second half kicking off, heading home Alan O'Hare's in swinging corner.
However, the 65th-minute introduction of Darren Bent paid a quick dividend when the England striker diverted Jerome Thomas's low drive past Roche with 17 minutes of normal time remaining.
Hasselbaink slotted home Thomas's cross three minutes after extra time began and that looked to be enough for Dowie's side but Allison, on for Folan, headed home an equaliser in the dying moments of extra time to ensure that Dowie's team had their nerves stretched to the limit.
Chesterfield (4-4-2): Roche; Lowry, Hazell, Downes, O'Hare; Hall, Niven, Allott, Hurst; Folan (Allison, 85), Larkin (Davies, 115). Substitutes not used: Jordan (gk), Smith, Kovacs, Davies.
Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Carson; Young, Fortune, Diawara, Hreidarsson; Thomas, Hughes (Ambrose, 65), Kishishev (Faye, 75), Reid; M Bent (D Bent, 65), Hasselbaink. Substitutes not used: Anderson (gk), Sankofa.
Referee: M Riley (West Yorkshire).
* A 49th-minute goal by Jermaine Easter gave Wycombe Wanderers a 1-0 win at Notts County and a place in the Carling Cup quarter-finals.Reuse content