CRAWLEY Town emerged with enormous credit from a thrilling but wafer-thin 1-0 defeat at the hands of Manchester Utd.
In fact the Sussex side were unlucky not to finish with a draw against a team which featured Wayne Rooney for the whole of the second half.
Played out in front of a near capacity 74,778 crowd, Crawley made their presence felt both on and off the pitch as the players cheered on by a massive 9,200 travelling fans managed to narrow the gap between Non-League football and the Premier League.
The Fifth Round FA Cup tie which was broadcast to millions live on ITV was decided by a 28th minute goal scored through a glancing header by former England player Wes Brown from a long swirling ball by Republic of Ireland international Darron Gibson.
The first half probably belonged to Manchester as strong Crawley central defensive pairing Kyle McFadzean and Pablo Mills shone at the back.
Manchester Utd boss Sir Alex Ferguson clearly had concerns as he brought on international superstar Rooney for the whole of the second half.
Crawley looked more confident during the second half and took the game to their multi-million pound counterparts.
Matt Tubbs had an appeal for a penalty turned down early after the break while at the other end, Rooney set up Gabriel Obertan for a chance which Man of the Match Mills cleared.
Although Rooney had a couple of efforts, he was not that convincing against the Blue Square Bet Premier title contenders and was eventually booked for an impetuous foul on McFadzean.
Town rallied in the last 25 minutes as they pressed hard for an equaliser, making a mockery of any superior fitness levels enjoyed by the players of one of the biggest clubs in Europe.
Jamie Cook came on for recent signing Willie Gibson and soon made a difference to the Crawley attack. He paved the way for a spectacular Rooney-esque overhead kick which only just went over the crossbar, under pressure from a brave challenge by Brown.
Crawley substitute Richard Brodie then agonisingly hit the crossbar with the best chance of the game, headed from inside the six-yard box.
David Hunt had put a dangerous chances well wide through a mis-hit in the first half but helped to make amends on the final whistle when his cross found McFadzean who nodded over the crossbar.
It was a brilliant attempted fightback against all the odds which won over many friends among neutrals and allowed Reds fans to go home well satisfied after nearly causing the biggest FA Cup upset ever.
Full report and reaction in this Wednesday’s special edition of the Crawley Observer
REDS: Kuipers, Hunt, Smith (Rusk 82), Torres, Tubbs, McAllister (Brodie 62), Bulman, Gibson (Cook 70), Mills, Howell, McFadzean. Unused subs: Rents, Wilson, Napper, Shearer
MAN UTD: Lindegaard, Brown, Anderson (Rooney 46), Hernandez, Carrick, F da Silva (Fletcher 69), R da Silva (Smalling 55), O’Shea, Obertan, Gibson, Bebe. Unused subs: Kuszczak, King, Pogba, Tunnicliffe
REFEREE: Lee Probert
MAN OF THE MATCH: Pablo Mills