LONDON (Reuters) - Forty-year-old striker Aaron Wilbraham came off the bench to earn third-tier Rochdale a 1-1 draw at home to Premier League Newcastle United in the FA Cup third round on Saturday.
Newcastle dominated the opening period at Spotland with Miguel Almiron firing them ahead after 17 minutes.
But Rochdale, struggling in 18th place in League One, were a different proposition after the break and veteran Wilbraham, a halftime substitute, slotted home a richly-deserved 79th-minute leveller to earn them a replay.
If that was not enough for FA Cup romantics, it was a 17-year-old — Luke Matheson — who crossed for Wilbraham to score only his second career goal in the competition.
“We played football in the second half. We mixed it up well and were unlucky not to win the game,” said Wilbraham, playing the 674th match of his journeyman career.
“It will be a great experience for the lads to go up to St James’ Park (for the replay).”
Newcastle, who fielded a strong line-up, struggled to cope with Rochdale’s direct style in the second half and the hosts would have been celebrating a famous win had Oliver Rathbone not scuffed a glorious late chance wide.
While Newcastle were relieved to be in the hat for the fourth round draw, top-flight rivals Aston Villa and Brighton & Hove Albion were beaten by second-tier opposition.
Last season’s semi-finalists Brighton went down 1-0 at home to Sheffield Wednesday, Adam Reach’s goal sealing it, while Villa, who made nine changes, lost 2-1 at Fulham.
Third-tier Tranmere Rovers produced the comeback of the day. They trailed 3-0 at halftime at top-flight Watford but goals by Connor Jennings, Emmanuel Monthe and a late Paul Mullin penalty earned them an unlikely 3-3 draw.
Norwich City, bottom of the Premier League, had a hat-trick from teenager Adam Idah in only his second senior appearance to thank for a 4-2 win at Championship side Preston North End.
Southampton made 10 changes to the side that beat Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League on Wednesday but still triumphed over Huddersfield Town 2-0.
Hull City’s Tom Eaves also scored a hat-trick as they beat third-tier Rotherham United 3-2 while top-flight Burnley beat third-tier Peterborough United 4-2 at home.
Birmingham City beat Blackburn Rovers 2-1 in an all-Championship clash. Fourth-tier Newport County went down 3-0 at Millwall but third-tier Shrewsbury Town earned a replay after a 1-1 draw at Championship side Bristol City.
Newcastle only had themselves to blame after failing to turn their first-half supremacy into goals.
Christian Atsu caused havoc for the Magpies and it was his run and cut back that allowed Almiron to take a touch before firing into the roof of the net.
Rochdale came alive after the break and should have equalised when Rathbone’s shot was turned into the path of Ian Henderson by keeper Martin Dubravka but the home skipper’s close-range shot hit the post.
Newcastle have not been past the fourth round since 2006 and will need a replay to even reach that stage this season after Wilbraham finished off a great move to send the home fans wild.
“Credit to Aaron Wilbraham — he’s been around longer than I have!” Newcastle’s 59-year-old boss Steve Bruce said. “I think I might have even played against him.”
Newcastle had other worries too with Paraguay striker Almiron and Yoshinori Muto both suffering injuries.
Later on Saturday holders Manchester City host Port Vale while Manchester United face a stern test at Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester City host Wigan Athletic.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge