Bolton Wanderers 1 Liverpool 2
The footballing Gods appear to still be smiling on Liverpool and especially Steven Gerrard's hopes of playing in the FA Cup final, on his 35th birthday, in what potentially may be his last ever in a Liverpool shirt. That is still only a distant pipedream though after their fourth round victory at Bolton last night, in a replay that left the main drama and talking points until the second-half.
Two Liverpool players had particular cause for celebration as the game kicked off at the Macron Stadium (formerly the Reebok Stadium), with captain Gerrard making his landmark 700th appearance for the club and Philippe Coutinho fresh from agreeing a deal to keep him with the Reds until 2020.
After 45 minutes of mainly Liverpool bossing the possession but creating few genuine chances, other than a clever Raheem Sterling curler that struck the outside of the post, the second-half was much more even, as the home side set about staking their claims to qualify for the fifth round instead..
It was Bolton who went ahead on the hour mark from the penalty spot, after Zach Clough was adjudged to have been fouled in the box by Martin Skrtel. Ex- Chelsea and Barcelona veteran Eidur Gudjohnsen took responsibility and coolly slotted past Simon Mignolet.
Bolton player Neil Danns was then sent off after lunging at Joe Allen, receiving his second yellow card on the night to reduce the Trotters to ten men, with 24 minutes still left to play.
Liverpool dominated possession afterwards and weighed siege on the Bolton goal in the last 20 minutes, being denied on several occasions by either the Bolton keeper, the woodwork or a combination of the two. A deflected effort by Jordan Henderson hit the post with the keeper beaten and then Emre Can's fierce strike was finger-tipped on to the bar by Andrew Lonergan.
Just as the visitors must have thought that it was not their night, the German Can's delightful flick over the defence allowed Sterling to shoot through the keeper's legs, with just four minutes remaining on the clock. Sensing their opportunity was at hand, the Reds pushed on and Coutinho sent their travelling fans into rapture in the stands, by grabbing the winner in the dying seconds.
He shimmied inside a tiring defence and fired a precision strike into the net off the underside of the bar. That left little time for Bolton to grab an equalizer as time ran out on their Cup campaign for another season.
Bolton manager Neil Lennon was forthright in his views afterwards about the performance of referee Roger East, less so one suspects about the contentious penalty decision that went in his side's favour, but more related to the sending off. The ex- Celtic boss furiously stated: "I thought he was rubbish. I thought he spoiled what was a very good game."
Despite the suitability or not of the refereeing on the night, it was indeed a vibrant game which looked to be going the way of the Championship side until the last few minutes, when the Reds finally found their way through a solid defence. Everything a cup tie should be, except for the giant-killing act of course.
Liverpool now move on to an away tie in the fifth round at Crystal Palace. That has not been a lucky hunting ground in recent games for the Merseyside club, but if it is indeed Gerrard's destiny to walk out on the hallowed Wembley turf one more time, then it is the sort of place they would need to find a way to win at.