Solly March missed the decisive spot-kick to send Manchester United through to the final of the FA Cup after their penalty shootout win over Brighton.
Three days on from their Europa League quarter-final exit to Sevilla, Erik ten Hag’s side found themselves in the familiar position of needing to bounce back from a humiliating loss.
Brighton made United sweat as the south coast club sought to reach just their second FA Cup final, with the semi-final ending 0-0 after 120 minutes at Wembley.
The first 12 penalties of the shoot-out found the net before Albion favourite March blazed over, allowing Victor Lindelof to win it 7-6 and set-up a Wembley return against City.
Roberto De Zerbi’s exciting side had been bookmakers’ favourites in their third FA Cup semi-final appearance and began in the manner onlookers have become accustomed to.
Alexis Mac Allister’s early free-kick was saved by David De Gea, with the under-fire United goalkeeper brilliantly tipping over a Julio Enciso attempt after half-time.
United settled and the match went to extra-time, which also ended goalless meaning the semi-final went to spot-kicks under the arch.
March’s miss was the key moment, with Lindelof striking brilliantly in sudden death as the Carabao Cup winners progressed to a record-equalling 21st FA Cup final.
Brighton began on the front foot at Wembley, where Mac Allister hit a brilliant sixth-minute free-kick that De Gea did well to stop nestling in the top right-hand corner.
Enciso struck wide before Kaoru Mitoma and Pervis Estupinan got in each other’s way as Albion continued in the ascendancy with only fleeting flickers of life from United.
Bruno Fernandes, sorely missed against Sevilla, forced Robert Sanchez into action from 20 yards and was soon the subject of nervous conversation after pulling up in pain. The patched-up Portuguese was given the green light to carry on.
Enciso fired wide for Brighton but it was United who ended the half on top, with Fernandes dragging a shot across the face of goal.
Two further chances followed in stoppage time. Anthony Martial overhit an attempt to catch out Sanchez and Eriksen fired straight at the keeper from a Rashford cross.
Brighton returned from the break strongly, prodding and probing before De Gea denied them a 56th-minute goal.
Adam Webster and Mitoma were denied in quick succession before the ball fell to Enciso to fizz an effort that the United goalkeeper expertly tipped over.
Ex-United striker Danny Welbeck went close with a header from the resulting corner and De Gea was soon called upon to stop a March cross-shot.
United belatedly gained a measure of control and composure, with Sanchez denying Antony before Fernandes fired a free-kick at the wall from a dangerous position.
De Gea got down to push away a low March shot and substitute Jadon Sancho saw a curling effort deflected behind.
When extra time got under way, Brighton substitute Deniz Undav was guilty of a heavy touch at the end of a fine move before Marcel Sabitzer glanced wide and fellow substitute Fred caused problems.
First the Brazil midfielder sent over a dangerous cross that nobody met, before cutting out the ball as Rashford ended up getting away a strike that took a deflection off Webster and was saved superbly by Sanchez.
The second period also ended goalless. March saw a shot stopped and Rashford lashed across the face of goal, with Brighton just unable to squeeze home a late chance that ended with Mitoma leaving De Gea in a heap.
The final whistle saw attention turn to penalties, with each player finding the net in the first five rounds.
Sancho and Rashford showed character to score at the stadium where they missed spot-kicks in England’s Euro 2020 final loss to Italy, with Sanchez getting a hand on Marcel Sabitzer’s fifth attempt for United.
Webster and Wout Weghorst scored the first goals of sudden death, only for March to miss in front of the Brighton end and Lindelof to score the decider.
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