Yet more knock-out midweek cup drama on Teesside. Middlesbrough just don't do mundane when the lights go on at the Riverside.
Adam Johnson finally brought the proceedings to a halt shortly before 11pm last night with the winning shoot-out kick at a venue that hosted a seven-goal epic in the last round and those unforgettable Uefa Cup exploits of last season.
The statistics barely scratch at the surface of the previous 120 minutes. Mark Viduka went some way to putting into words the bewilderment of all concerned: "Who wrote that script?" Clearly someone with a twisted sense of humour if you are Aiyegbeni Yakubu, who ended up a winner despite twice missing from the penalty spot. His success record before last night was 18 out of 19.
Middlesbrough's top scorer atoned for his first miss - an apologetic effort in the first half of extra-time which Chris Weale barely had to dive to save - by putting the hosts in front for the first time on 101 minutes with a close-range follow-up after Weale had beaten out Johnson's drive.
Jamie McCombe, the Bristol City skipper who was fortunate to remain on after fouling Yakubu in the prelude to the African's first penalty miss, unexpectedly forced the shoot-out by hooking home Scott Murray's cross with three minutes remaining.
McCombe's reprieve proved to be the most contentious non-decision made by Phil Dowd, Paul Jewell's favourite referee, who despite tweaking a hamstring played a full part in an engaging encounter.
Mark Schwarzer's save from Phil Jevons' opening to the 12-yard lottery gave Yakubu a chance to further make amends, only for him to hit the post. Johnson was not so profligate and won the tie after the Boro keeper had kept out Craig Woodman's kick.
"I hope Yak's penalty taking's not been rumbled, he's usually so good. I couldn't believe it," added Viduka, who headed the hosts level from a Stewart Downing cross 25 minutes after his introduction as a half-time substitute.
It restored parity after Bristol City's impressive start had been rewarded by a 23rd-minute opener from David Noble, the forward the beneficiary of some woeful marking to accept an Alex Russell pass and fire a shot beneath Schwarzer from a dozen yards.
Downing and Johnson might have won it as they both struck the woodwork in the last 10 minutes of regulation time. "I had a sneaky feeling it was going to be that sort of night," Gareth Southgate, the Boro manager said.
"We showed a lot of bottle to win it," he added, in anticipation of Saturday's visit by West Bromwich Albion and their Teesside-born manager, Tony Mowbray.
"I have to be very proud of the performance," Gary Johnson, his Bristol City counterpart said. "We stood toe to toe with them for most of the match."
"We didn't half put some effort in," Johnson added. "I wanted to hug everyone of them afterwards, but they were hot and sweaty and I've got a new suit on."
Goals: Noble (17) 0-1; Viduka (69) 1-1; Yakubu (95) 2-1; McCombe (117) 2- 2.
Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Hines (Davies, 46), Xavier, Pogatetz, Taylor; Cattermole (Johnson, 68), Rochemback, Boateng, Downing; Yakubu, Christie (Viduka, 46). Substitutes not used: Jones (gk), Euell.
Bristol City (4-4-2): Orr, McCombe, Keogh, Fontaine (Partridge, 106); Murray, Johnson, Russell, McAllister (Woodman, 43); Jevons, Noble (Myrie-Williams, 88). Substitutes not used: Thomas (gk), Artus.
Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).
Booked: Middlesbrough Cattermole; Bristol City Orr, Russell.
Man of the match: Viduka.
Attendance: 26,328.Reuse content