Championship side Birmingham City were given a scare in their FA Cup third-round tie as they needed two second-half goals to come from behind and beat League One strugglers Forest Green.
The fired-up hosts led 1-0 at the break after a flying start brought a stunning early strike from Ben Stevenson.
But recalled striker Lukas Jutkiewicz levelled straight after the break.
And new man Kevin Long hit his first goal since arriving from Burnley to book a fourth-round tie at Blackburn.
Rovers, bottom of League One, have made five new signings so far in the January window. And, although three of them were cup-tied, they got off to a great start, fuelled by Stevenson’s rocket.
The former Wolves and Coventry youngster had previously scored only once for Forest Green – in this season’s EFL Trophy at Newport since his arrival from Colchester in the summer of 2021.
But when he received the ball in space, 25 yards out, he delivered a superb right-foot curler into the top right corner for his first goal at the New Lawn.
And the lead would then have been doubled, had home skipper Baily Cargill’s shot not been tipped over by the recalled Neil Etheridge.
He was one of five changes from the side beaten 4-2 by Bristol City on Saturday – Blues’ fourth straight league defeat – along with on-loan duo Manny Longelo and Hannibal Mejbri, Wales midfielder Jordan James and veteran striker Jutkiewicz.
And the Championship side were somewhat muted, failing to land a blow before the break. But, after a triple half-time substitution involving Tahith Chong, Alfie Chang and Max Colin, the visitors suddenly looked a team transformed.
First top scorer Scott Hogan was denied only by a fine, full-length save from Lewis Thomas. Then just two minutes later Jutkiewicz drilled home a low right-foot shot from the edge of the box for only his second goal of the season.
But, just past the hour, Blues survived a double scare in a frantic scramble when Etheridge twice came to the rescue. First he touched Regan Hendry’s left-foot shot onto the bar before also heroically denying Matty Stevens from the rebound.
Within four minutes, Blues were ahead as Long kept his head to slot home in a packed penalty area melee – and that booked the former Burnley man the enticing prospect of a trip to Ewood Park on 28 January.
Forest Green boss Ian Burchnall told BBC Radio Gloucestershire:
“We were outstanding first half and thoroughly deserved to go in ahead. But we didn’t get that elusive second goal.
“Then they changed their shape at half-time and it took us 10 minutes to get to grips with it.
“They took their two chances and we didn’t take ours. And you can’t do that against a side from that level with that sort of quality. It’s a simple as that.
“We’d love to have made it to the fourth round for the first time. But it was still a good night. The fans were great. When they give us support like that, it gives us a real boost.”
Birmingham City boss John Eustace told BBC Radio WM:
“The first half was difficult for us. We weren’t aggressive. We weren’t on the front foot. And to be 1-0 down at Forest Green is as tough as it gets.
“But the changes at half-time were positive and worked. The subs made a huge difference. Alfie Chang in particular did really well.
“And what a world-class double save that was from Neil Etheridge. He hasn’t stopped talking about it for 20 minutes – and he’s got every right to, to be fair.
“Most importantly, the second half showed we’re together. When you’re going through a difficult period, as we are, it’s so important to show the character that we have. Let’s hope that’s now a turning point for us.”
- 2O’KeeffeSubstituted forCaseyat 71′minutes
- 7StevensonSubstituted forDavisat 84′minutes
- 17McAllisterSubstituted forFiabemaat 70′minutes
- 25Peart-HarrisBooked at 38minsSubstituted forBrownat 84′minutes
- 9StevensSubstituted forGarrickat 70′minutes
- 5TrustyBooked at 69mins
- 23LongeloBooked at 38minsSubstituted forChongat 45′minutes
- 31BielikBooked at 57mins
- 6MejbriBooked at 59minsSubstituted forBacunaat 73′minutes
- 19JamesSubstituted forChangat 45′minutes
- 11GrahamSubstituted forColinat 45′minutes
- 9HoganSubstituted forDeeneyat 86′minutes
Match ends, Forest Green Rovers 1, Birmingham City 2.
Second Half ends, Forest Green Rovers 1, Birmingham City 2.
Foul by Brandon Cooper (Forest Green Rovers).
Troy Deeney (Birmingham City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Dominic Bernard (Forest Green Rovers).
Tahith Chong (Birmingham City) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Corner, Birmingham City. Conceded by Baily Cargill.
Corner, Birmingham City. Conceded by Brandon Cooper.
Attempt blocked. Tahith Chong (Birmingham City) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Substitution, Birmingham City. Troy Deeney replaces Scott Hogan.
Substitution, Forest Green Rovers. David Davis replaces Ben Stevenson.
Substitution, Forest Green Rovers. Reece Brown replaces Myles Peart-Harris.
Foul by Krystian Bielik (Birmingham City).
Regan Hendry (Forest Green Rovers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Hand ball by Lukas Jutkiewicz (Birmingham City).
Tahith Chong (Birmingham City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Brandon Cooper (Forest Green Rovers).
Foul by Dion Sanderson (Birmingham City).
Bryan Fiabema (Forest Green Rovers) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Auston Trusty (Birmingham City).