Stockport County 2 Everton 3
There will be no more pulsating cup tie this season than the replay at Edgeley Park last night that saw the holders advance into the fourth round with a last-minute goal from John Ebbrell.
Everton, outplayed and on their way to humiliation by the humble Second Division side, had come back with a burst of two goals 20 minutes from time but then allowed Alun Armstrong to equalise for County with time running out.
Straight from the kick-off, however, Ebbrell ran through and unleashed a fierce right-footed shot for one of his rare goals. It was a cruel way to go out for a Stockport side that had done itself proud, but an ending that could hardly be bettered for dramatic impact.
Even before its final crescendo, the tie had hardly been short of that commodity. Stockport, who felt with some justification that they should have won at Goodison, hammered Everton in the first half, taking a richly deserved lead when their defender Matthew Bound forced home a header from under Neville Southall's crossbar.
Even though County's Neil Edwards had to make one wonderful save from Andrei Kanchelskis's header, it was County who had the clear-cut opportunities to stitch up the tie.
John Jeffers, a more effective wide man on the night than either of Everton's expensive imports, shot hurriedly and wide from an inviting chance and then his centre fell for Ian Helliwell, who wasted it with a mis-kick.
If Everton were fortunate to survive that onslaught, they looked to have made their extra class and experience tell when they sickened County with two goals in two minutes.
Edwards, as outstanding in this match as he had been at Goodison, made a brilliant save from Kanchelskis, but could do nothing about the header from Graham Stuart's corner by Duncan Ferguson, preferred for this tie to the scorer of the Wembley winner, Paul Rideout.
Almost immediately, Edwards had to save again from Kanchelskis, but this time the ball ran off his body for Stuart to stab home.
And that surely was that, with Stockport apparently out of ammunition. But then the hard-working Armstrong turned nimbly to fire a perfectly struck shot just inside the post and Stockport were still thinking about extra time when Ebbrell delivered the final blow.
"It was youth and inexperience that caught us out at the end," said the Stockport manager, David Jones, who was for 10 years an Everton player himself.
"We didn't deserve it to end like that, but if we had to lose I don't mind it being to Everton," he said.
For Joe Royle, the relief was all too visible. "They scared us to death," he admitted.
Stockport County (4-4-2): Edwards; Connelly, Flynn, Bound, Todd; Beaumont (Chalk, 75), Eckhardt, Ware, Jeffers; Armstrong, Helliwell. Substitutes not used: Oliver, Dickens (gk).
Everton (3-5-2): Southall; Short, Watson, Ablett; Kanchelskis, Horne, Parkinson, Ebbrell, Limpar (Amokachi, h-t); Stuart, Ferguson. Substitutes not used: Umsworth, Kearton (gk).
Referee: G Poll (Tring).Reuse content