Tranmere Rovers staged a phenomenal second-half comeback from 3-0 down to earn a 3-3 draw away to Premier League club Watford in the Emirates FA Cup third-round at Vicarage Road on Saturday afternoon.
TRFC were two behind early on through strikes from Tom Dele-Bashiru and Nathanial Chalobah before Roberto Pereyra added a third just after the half-hour.
But then came a comeback after the break that epitomised Rovers’ never say die attitude, which means Tranmere will welcome Watford to the Wirral later this month.
Connor Jennings headed in for Rovers from close-range after the hour, which was initially ruled out for offside before being overturned by VAR before Manny Monthe turned in a free-kick.
VAR intervened for Rovers’ equaliser with three minutes to play when substitute Paul Mullin struck a penalty following a foul on Corey Blackett-Taylor.
Watford were reduced to ten men in the closing stages when Pereyra was dismissed.
New signing Peter Clarke made his debut for Micky Mellon’s men, while Monthe returned from injury. There was also a start up front for Stefan Payne.
Rovers kept their top-flight opponents at bay for 11 minutes when Dele-Bashiru drove a powerful effort right-footed from the edge of the penalty area which beat Aaron Chapman to find the top left corner.
Watford scored their second of the tie three minutes later, when Chalobah profited from a defensive mix-up to fire past Chapman into the left corner.
Domingos Quina broke towards Rovers’ backline, unleashing a powerful shot that was well blocked by Sid Nelson.
Up the other end, Kieron Morris sent a cross in which just evaded the head of Payne.
Nigel Pearson’s Hornets made it three on 33 minutes, with Argentina international Pereyra latching onto Andre Gray’s pass to curl left-footed across goal from the right-side of the box beyond Chapman.
Clarke and Monthe then both saw headers from set-pieces go narrowly wide of the post for Rovers.
Jennings bent an effort from 20-yards which forced goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann to drop down to his left and was equal to it.
Rovers made two half-time substitutions with Blackett-Taylor coming on for Payne and Calum Woods replacing Nelson.
Watford went in search of a fourth, when Joao Pedro cut inside after being threaded through by Isaac Success, and his low daisycutter went narrowly wide of Chapman’s left-post.
Tranmere would go onto enjoy some attacking pressure as the contest, as Jake Caprice sent a dangerous free-kick which just missed a white shirt.
Morris’ rasping strike from the edge of the box also made Bachmann turn behind for a corner.
Rovers pulled one back after 64 minutes when Jennings glanced past Bachmann following Blackett-Taylor’s cross from the right.
His goal was chalked off for an offside, with referee Graham Scott checking VAR and giving the goal.
Buoyed by their first goal, Tranmere were unlucky not to add a second when Jennings’ hooked shot was pushed over well by Bachmann.
Rovers were back in it on 77 minutes after Blackett-Taylor’s free-kick from the right wasn’t dealt with by Bachmann, allowing centre-back Monthe to shoot left-footed from close-range, in front of over 2,500 of the SWA.
Tranmere equalised when they were awarded a penalty through VAR, with Blackett-Taylor brought down in area on 87 minutes.
Up-stepped Mullin to convert the spot-kick from 12-yards, thumping right-footed straight down the middle past Bachmann to send the SWA wild.
Pereyra was sent off for the hosts by Scott in the 89th minute for a bad foul, as Rovers resiliently saw out the added time to secure a replay at Prenton Park in dramatic circumstances.
TRFC: Chapman, Caprice, Monthe, Clarke, Nelson (Woods 45), Perkins ©, Danns, Morris, Jennings, Ferrier (Mullin 80), Payne (Blackett-Taylor 45)
Subs not used: Pilling, Ray, Gilmour, Walker-Rice