Nuno Espirito Santo’s antipathy towards FA Cup replays will have cranked up another level after his depleted Nottingham Forest were forced to go the distance.
Yet there was an unlikely hero in goalkeeper Matt Turner, who produced the pivotal save from Bristol City’s Sam Bell in the penalty shootout.
Bristol City, fourteenth in the Championship, fought valiantly over 210 minutes of football, coming agonisingly close to winning the tie twice in the second half of extra time.
Forest have now needed replays against Blackpool and City to book their place in the fifth round, and this was another draining experience.
Taiwo Awoniyi put away the final penalty but had to play for nearly an hour after only recently returning from a groin injury, which was not the outcome Nuno wanted.
There was also a scare in extra time when captain Morgan Gibbs-White appeared to pull up with an injury, but had to play on as Nuno had used all his substitutions.
Forest completed the job, though, and Nuno was beaming as he reflected on the epic tie.
Nuno said: “This is the FA Cup, it is so special and that is why we are so happy and proud to keep continuing and fighting for something that is so huge for us.
“To fight for a trophy, with the history of the club we have to keep on fighting and try to deliver.
“I’m so happy that we got through and the players never gave up.”
Bristol City’s league performances have dropped off in recent weeks but this was a display to be proud of, in front of their noisy 2,600 supporters.
City embarrassed David Moyes’ West Ham in the previous round and will feel they could have eliminated another top-flight opponent in the same FA Cup campaign for the first time since 1919-20.
Under their highly regarded head coach Liam Manning, they now turn their attention back to reviving their league form in the Championship.
Manning has a richly talented squad and Bell, arguably the best player on the pitch, did not deserve to leave the field on a low moment.
“Sam is understandably gutted but the lads got around him and it’s an experience that will make him tougher,” said Manning. “We did a fantastic job of controlling the game but it was just that final bit that we need to execute.
“It’s a tough one to take as the lads were excellent but we’ve got to find that ruthless edge.”
Forest’s start to the year has proved a challenge. Without a win in the league so far in 2024, their season got more difficult last month after the Premier League’s charge for an alleged breach of financial rules.
Nuno’s problems have also increased with an alarming shortage of player availability, with at least nine missing here.
Yet it was the former Liverpool forward who provided the crucial touch for the opening goal in the eighth minute, reacting quickly to convert from close range.
Any hopes Nuno may have harboured of a comfortable night disappeared five minutes later. Andy King’s 20-yard shot came back off both posts after a messy save from Turner and after the home defence failed to clear Jason Knight fired home from inside the area.
Nuno gambled by introducing Awoniyi and Callum Hudson-Odoi for the final 26 minutes of normal time but it was two other substitutes who had late chances.
Extra time had appeared inevitable and in the first half, Morgan Gibbs-White struck fear into Forest by pulling up with an injury but played on as Nuno had used all his substitutes.
City finished the stronger and in the 110th minute Nakhi Wells could not provide the final touch from a few yards out.
Harry Cornick, the substitute, then lifted his shot over the bar with two minutes left.
Forest converted all their penalties and it was Turner who provided the big moment by saving Bell’s spot kick.
It is only the second time in ten seasons that Forest have reached the fifth round.