WALSALL 2-1 BRIGHTONWalsall will entertain Premier League champions Chelsea in the Capital One Cup third round after coming from behind to beat Championship side Brighton.
Jake Forster-Caskey put the Seagulls ahead when he won and then converted a contentious 39th-minute penalty, before Milan Lalkovic equalised midway through the second half.
Chris O’Grady blazed over a second spot-kick for the visitors, and Rico Henry made them pay when he slotted home his first career goal with four minutes remaining.
Dean Smith’s in-form side have now won five consecutive matches in all competitions.
The Saddlers are in the third round of the League Cup for the first time since 2002, and will now host Jose Mourinho’s star-studded Chelsea side on the week commencing September 21st.
Before the Brighton tie, there was a minute’s silence in memory of the victims of the Shoreham air crash.
Walsall fashioned the game’s first opportunity on eight minutes, when Kieron Morris’ right-wing cross picked out Lalkovic but he headed over from 12 yards.
Saddlers stopper, Neil Etheridge, parried Liam Rosenior’s fierce drive shortly after, while his opposite number, Niki Maenpaa, was equal to Reece Flanagan’s dipping right-foot volley.
On 21 minutes, Etheridge came to Walsall’s rescue, getting down well to keep out Forster-Caskey’s low shot after Sam Mantom was caught in possession.
Milan Lalkovic was inches away from finding the top corner with a superb curling free-kick from 20 yards.
And the Slovakia winger threatened again later in the half, bending a right-footed effort wide of the far post.
However, it was Brighton who took the lead in controversial circumstances six minutes before half-time.
Forster-Caskey was adjudged to have been fouled by Jason Demetriou in the box, and the 21-year-old midfielder stepped up to coolly send Etheridge the wrong way from 12 yards.
Brighton then almost made it 2-0, but Jamie Murphy’s deflected strike was kept out by Etheridge at full stretch.
HALF-TIME: WALSALL 0-1 BRIGHTON
The Seagulls, who were unbeaten heading into the match, could have increased the lead again shortly after the restart, but Rohan Ince blazed horribly over from Sully March’s cut-back.
Walsall were improved in the second half; Lalkovic again went close with a free-kick, and Mantom saw a header miraculously blocked by Danny Holla from point-blank range.
On 66 minutes, the hosts drew level.
Bradshaw’s low cross was intelligently left by Sawyers for Lalkovic to fire a powerful first-time strike into the roof of the net from 18 yards.
Walsall were buoyed by the goal; Kieron Morris' rasping strike brought an excellent tip-over save from Maenpaa, and from the resulting corner, Bradshaw sent a header wide.
On 71 minutes, Brighton were awarded a second spot-kick.
This time there were few complaints, as O’Grady went down under the challenge of James O’Connor.
The ex-Barnsley man grabbed the ball but – to Walsall’s relief – he blazed his penalty way over the bar.
And the visitors were made to pay for their profligacy four minutes from time, as Romaine Sawyers crossed for Henry to fire a low left-foot shot past Maenpaa from close range.
Sam Baldock was denied superbly by Etheridge deep in stoppage time – securing the Saddlers’ progression to round three and a dream draw against the League Cup holders, Chelsea.
FULL-TIME: WALSALL 2-1 BRIGHTON
Team: Etheridge, Demetriou, O’Connor, Downing (Preston 58), Chambers ©, Mantom, Bradshaw, Henry, Lalkovic (Cook 76), Flanagan (Sawyers 62), Morris.
Subs not used: Taylor, Baxendale, Forde, MacGillivray.
Attendance: 2,968 (411 Brighton supporters).