Chelsea looked to have secured a semi-final place nine minutes from time. Kenny Cunningham's interception of a long ball ahead of John Spencer was deemed a back-pass and from Dennis Wise's touched free-kick a yard inside a fuming Wimbledon's penalty area, Ruud Gullit drove a shot that cannoned off the defensive wall and into the roof of the net.
Moments later, though - the Wimbledon bench still berating the officials - Alan Kimble's free- kick was headed home at the far post by Dean Holdsworth for a deserved Dons' equaliser that secured a replay at Selhurst Park a week on Wednesday.
That feeling of anticipation on quarter-final Saturday may, sadly, have disappeared because of the dispersal of the ties over several days, but there was still a tension and expectation in the dank south-west London air at the prospect of a match that transcended local rivalry with a place in the last four at stake.
Indeed, both teams immediately illustrated their empathy with the occasion, the early exchanges a mixture of nervous mistakes and adrenalin-charged excitement. And when Gullit, all elegance and expertise, glided forward and drove in a low shot, it looked as if we would be seeing the Chelsea who at times this season have played some of the most attractive passing football in the country.
However, Wimbledon might have had the lead when Oyvind Leonhardsen's shot was beaten out by Kevin Hitchcock and Robbie Earle sent the rebound just over the bar; they certainly should have moments later after a neat, sweeping move.
Efan Ekoku's deep ball from the right showed that a Goodman is not necessarily hard to find, and striker Jon Goodman - keeping leading scorer Holdsworth out of the team - headed the ball down to Mick Harford, whose half-volley rebounded off a post. From the rebound, Hitchcock was equal to Leonhardsen's low shot.
Chelsea fashioned an even sweeter move as response: Dennis Wise crossfield to Gullit, a touch to Spencer, a flick on to Mark Hughes and Neil Sullivan clutching the low shot at the second attempt. Soon after, Hughes volleyed Wise's corner just over the bar.
Wimbledon's doggedness was largely frustrating Chelsea's more patient efforts to winkle openings, however, with Gullit in particular being closed down quickly when in possession. And the visitors did look incisive on the break and powerful at set-pieces, with a shot from a free- kick by Kimble gratefully held by Hitchcock, providing evidence of this.
It all came together early in the second half and resulted in a goal. Chelsea began by again probing away, but Wimbledon seemed neither impressed nor intimidated and soon broke out to score. Ekoku made good ground on the left, but his run was interrupted by Michael Duberry, who until then had again performed faultlessly in Chelsea's defence. It was, decided the referee, Graham Poll, worthy of the game's first caution. From Vinny Jones's free-kick, Robbie Earle rose well at the far post and his downward header went into the net.
Amid looks of anger among Chelsea's fans, they urged their team to step up the tempo and the home side responded with greater urgency. Paul Furlong's drive was held by Sullivan, who also did well to turn aside Gullit's low cross whipped in from the right.
The pressure yielded its reward. Wise crossed from the right, Furlong held off the challenge of Dean Blackwell and turned the ball on to a post, whence it trickled along the goal-line for Hughes to slide in and stab home.Reuse content