A 90th-minute Devon Fender goal capped a Broadbridge Heath fightback as they came from two-goals down to beat Littlehampton 3-2 and advance in the Peter Bentley Cup.
The Bears eventually progressed into the second after a game that started quietly burst into life in the last 20 minutes on Wednesday evening.
With both sides reduced to ten men after red cards to Alex Laing and Marlon Maxell, Heath, who were already on the comeback trail through Tim Martin’s goal, levelled through Danny Attwater, before Fender’s late winner.
In the first half, Martyn Flack, Alex Parsons, Fender and Maxwell all had headers off target with Parsons and Maxwell also shooting over the bar, while Michael Chester had to make one sharp save at the other end.
Then after 28 minutes Lee Garnham was allowed to run through midfield and set up Kieron Playle-Howard to finish clinically. The home side continued to cause problems and forced Chester into another sharp block from Shay Wiggans.
Four minutes before half-time, Chester could only parry a cross and the resulting scramble led to Playle-Howard doubling the lead
Littlehampton began to get on top again in the second half with the lively Lucas Pattenden testing stand-in right back Flack. The ongoing tussles between Maxwell and home striker Laing resulted in a booking for the Heath centre-back.
As Heath looked to change the course of the game, Alex Parsons and Dean Wright were replaced by George Cousins and Jack McNab and Heath changed to a 3-4-3 formation.
Then on 75 minutes Laing was shown a red card after going into a challenge studs up, though it was not clear whether this was the result of a second yellow. Within a minute, Martin had met Piers McDermott’s near post cross with a bullet header to give the Bears hope.
Just when Heath were getting on top they suffered a set-back when Maxwell received a second yellow card and was dismissed.
With ten players apiece it was Heath who seized the initiative and poured forward. A series of corners eventually ended with ball being cleared back to McDermott whose inviting cross was powered home by Attwater to bring the scores level with eight minutes remaining.
A Fender header then brought a fabulous save from Mitchell Brommage and Flack headed over when he would normally hit the target, while a Fender effort was deflected just wide.
Then in the 90th minute the otherwise quiet Tom Howard-Bold lost two markers in midfield and sent a pass through to Fender, who outpaced the defence and finished clinically to send Heath through.
Heath manager Steve Painter, although pleased with the character shown and the strength of his squad, was less than delighted about the first 70 minutes and knows that this cannot happen again if the Bears are to reach their goal of a high top six finish this year.
The next test is the visit of Loxwood on Saturday. Painter will welcome back Rob Godfrey and Shaun Findlay but Scott Weller and Stuart Chester are still recovering from injury.
Heath: Chester; Flack, Robinson, Attwater, Maxwell, Howard-Bold, Parsons (Cousins), McDermott, Martin, Wright (McNab), Fender. Unused Subs: Copestake, Sim.