Brentford 4, City 2

(aet, 1-1 after 90 minutes)

The FA Cup is hailed as the best domestic knock-out competition in the world but last night’s game had hardly been welcomed with open arms.

Brentford boss Uwe Rosler described the second-round replay as “unexpected”, given City’s reprieve six days earlier. Phil Parkinson had gone further and called it “unwanted”.

It did not require Einstein to work out that the Griffin Park encounter was not on the Christmas list of either manager.

It was only thanks to David Baldwin’s appeal skills that the match was back on in the first place. The director of operations and his legal team did their best work at Wembley last week to earn a second chance.

After ditching the Christmas party, City found themselves doing the FA Cup hokey-cokey. They were in, out, in and now, finally, out after an extra-time heartbreaker that they cannot reverse.

Suddenly it did matter as City’s proud unbeaten cup run came to an end at the 11th attempt – and sixth period of extra-time.

The makeshift visitors had twice been in front, first through Kyel Reid on his return from injury and then Alan Connell.

But three home goals in a five-minute burst either side of the extra-time interval turned the tie and proved that Parkinson’s battling Bantams are human after all.

Parkinson had made it clear beforehand that his only concern is the traditionally hectic league rush over Christmas. Many of the regulars were left at home for a bonus day off to recharge the batteries.

There were nine changes from Saturday – he would have made it all 11 if possible. Unfortunately the shortage at centre half meant that Rory McArdle and Carl McHugh were pressed into action once again.

It was still a strong-looking side for game number 33 of a breathless season. Left back Forrayah Bass made his senior debut but there was plenty of experience – and pace – about the rest of the team.

Reid made his first appearance since hobbling off at Rochdale 11 weeks ago. Blair Turgott lined up on the other flank with Zavon Hines, fresh from a lively cameo at Southend, playing off Connell up front.

Brentford applied the early pressure and Jon McLaughlin, keen to take his chance in goal, made two important saves to deny Stuart Dallas and Marcello Trotta.

The League One side were pushing for the breakthrough but debutant keeper Antoine Gounet nearly self-destructed trying to deal with a back pass. As Connell pressed him, the Frenchman barely got a connection on the ball which spun away to safety.

Brentford old boy Connell then fashioned City’s first opening but leant back as he shot over the bar.

The hosts should have taken the lead after 24 minutes. Left back Jake Bidwell’s overlap set up Paul Hayes, who had time to pick his spot inside the box but side-footed beyond the far post.

Good work from Hines won City’s first corner and Scott Brown met it with a cracking volley that flew wide.

But the visitors stole in front after 33 minutes. Connell and Hines combined to pick the pocket of Leon Legge and although Hines’ shot was charged down, the ball fell nicely for Reid to blast his third goal of the season from 15 yards out.

McLaughlin prevented a quick response by diving bravely at the feet of Tom Adeyemi – and the keeper continued to defy Brentford as he turned away an angled effort from Trotta.

Hayes hooked a volley over from another home corner before the Bees levelled after a mistake by McHugh. The young Irishman tripped Trotta as the on-loan Fulham striker cut inside from the right of the box and the Italian sent McLaughlin the wrong way with a cool penalty.

Parkinson argued the case with referee Graham Scott at half-time but it appeared a clumsy challenge on a player who was looking for the foul.

The Bantams boss had stressed that Reid would not play the full game and his goal-scoring comeback came to an end after 56 minutes. Garry Thompson came on up front as Hines dropped back to the left wing.

Jonathan Douglas played Dallas into space on Brentford’s right and his drilled cross eluded everyone as it skirted the City six-yard box.

Hines then made way for Adam Baker after getting booked for a late foul on Shaleum Logan.

Brentford were in the ascendancy and McHugh headed away a Hayes try from just in front of his own line. Turgott attempted a response and worked himself into a decent shooting position but the effort was wayward.

The home side threw their hand in with 12 minutes of normal time to go and brought on Clayton Donaldson to boos from the away fans.

Within two minutes, City had an escape as Logan blasted against the bar.

The Bantams eased the pressure with a flurry of corners. Brown’s delivery was good as first McArdle and then Ricky Ravenhill saw efforts blocked behind.

And the skipper almost unleashed a dramatic winner in the final minute of normal time, taking the ball down with a touch on his chest before whipping it just wide of the post.

So City faced their sixth extra-time – and needed only four minutes of it to go back in front from the second penalty of the night.

Logan was punished for catching Turgott on the byline and Connell took full advantage to blast the spot-kick into the roof of the net.

Connell’s celebrations were short-lived. Brentford poured forward again and McHugh got a faint touch to divert Harry Forrester’s cross from the lurking Donaldson, then Hayes whisked an effort across goal.

But two goals in the space of three minutes turned the game on its head. City failed to clear a Brentford corner and the scramble dropped conveniently for Trotta to blast his second of the night.

And the hosts completed their comeback when Forrester found Donaldson and he spun and beat McLaughlin at the near post.

Bass was sacrificed for youth-team striker Nathan Curtis for the second added period as City went to three at the back. But Brentford sealed the deal from their first attack, Forrester finding the extra space to fire home from close range.

Brentford had the breathing space – and had avoided the dreaded penalties on the way to clinching a trip to Southend. City, though, have plenty of bigger goals to aim for.

Attendance: 2,643