Walsall finished runners-up in Checkatrade Trophy Northern Group E following a narrow home defeat by League Two Port Vale.
The Valiants opened the scoring with just four minutes on the clock, Scott Quigley glancing an accurate header into the bottom corner from Idris Kanu’s inviting right-wing cross.
Vale nearly had a second on 22 minutes as Louis Dodds’ deflected 25-yard strike was parried by keeper Chris Dunn, with Quigley tapping home the rebound, but from an offside position.
The Saddlers equalised in first-half injury time, Connor Johnson prodding the ball home from close range after Luke Leahy’s free-kick wasn’t dealt with by the visiting defence.
The Wolves loanee went from hero to villain at the start of the second half, receiving his marching orders for a second bookable offence after hauling down Quigley just outside the box.
Neil Aspin’s men made the most of their numerical supremacy, retaking the lead on 65 minutes when substitute Danny Pugh turned and fired right-footed under Dunn.
It should have been 3-1 five minutes later as Dunn passed the ball straight to Lewis Hardcastle but, with the keeper stranded, his attempted lob floated wide.
Quigley also went close in added time with a long-range attempt which Dunn parried behind at his near post.
Saddlers team (4-4-2): Dunn; Wilson, Fitzwater, Johnson, Leahy (Devlin 45’); Ismail, Bates, Ronan, Morris; Gordon (Parker 75’), Ferrier.
Subs not used: L Roberts, Guthrie, Cook, Kinsella, McSkeane.
Attendance: 878 (64 Port Vale supporters).