Reading 3 West Bromwich Albion 2 (after extra-time: score at 90 mins 2-2)
West Bromwich Albion threw away a two-goal lead at the Madejski Stadium last night, as Richard Chaplow's first two goals of his Albion career were overshadowed by Leroy Lita.
The Reading striker usurped Chaplow with a hat-trick as Albion suffered a draining extra-time defeat against the Championship leaders.
Manager Bryan Robson was without ten first-team players due to injury, suspension or international duty and his patched up side, including three debutants, appeared to be in cruise control as they led 2-0 at half-time courtesy of Chaplow.
But Lita produced a virtuoso performance after the interval to end Albion's FA Cup dreams for another year.
Two games in three days, including a period of extra-time, proved costly for Albion, as they ran out of steam in the second period of extra-time and looked well-beaten by the final whistle.
Albion's problems did give a host of players who had a point to prove the chance to showcase their talents, and Chaplow took full advantage.
He was recalled to the midfield and took his place alongside 19-year-old debutant Jared Hodgkiss.
Robert Davies (19) and Stuart Nicholson (18) also took their first-team bows as substitutes, which was a bonus for Robson.
Chaplow's first goal arrived after nine minutes and was a fitting finish to a sweet passing move instigated by Jonathan Greening.
He weaved his way in from the right hand side and fed Rob Earnshaw who, under extreme pressure managed to lay the ball back into the path of Ronnie Wallwork.
The midfielder delivered a precision first time pass into the path of Chaplow on the edge of the penalty area.
There was still plenty for the £1.5 million signing to do, but he advanced and struck a sweet left foot shot that left Royals keeper Graham Stack clutching at thin air.
That set the agenda for the evening as Albion were happy to concede possession to Reading in their own half, but were able to break with alacrity when required.
Shane Long wasted a glorious chance to restore parity halfway through the first half. John Oster, who was looking particularly menacing on the right flank clipped in a cross that was met by the head of Stephen Hunt.
He guided the ball into the path of Long, eight yards from goal, but he made a horrible connection with the ball and it dribbled harmlessly towards the welcoming hands of Chris Kirkland.
Considering it was Albion's second game inside 48 hours they had a visible spring in their step and looked comfortable despite the threat posed by Reading's dangerous flank players, Hunt and Oster.
And Albion's confidence was given another boost when Chaplow doubled their lead 15 minutes before the interval.
Some intricate passing involving Wallwork, Greening and Earnshaw released Darren Carter on the left and his wicked cross reached Nathan Ellington at the far post. Ellington's volley was superbly executed and Stack could only parry the ball into the six-yard area.
Chaplow showed a predator's instinct to slot the ball into an empty net and double his career tally of goals for Albion.
Robson's men appeared to be in cruise control, but Reading still posed a threat and any notions Albion had of the game petering out were swiftly quashed five minutes after the interval.
Oster, who was proving a major irritant to Albion's defence, cut in from the right wing and crossed to Leroy Lita.
The striker, who had previously looked shorn of confidence, swivelled and drove a low shot past the helpless Kirkland.
The Madejski Stadium burst into life with a cacophony of noise and the hosts used Lita's goal as a catalyst to dominate proceedings.
Albion were visibly buckling under the pressure and it came as no surprise when Lita continued his renaissance with a stunning equaliser.
Reading proved that they are a Premiership side in waiting with a slick passing move that scythed through the heart of Albion and Lita provided the finish with a looping 25-yard strike that dipped over Kirkland into the top corner of the net.
Critics who labour under the impression that the FA Cup is of diminished importance would surely have been forced to eat humble pie as this tie had developed into a cup classic.
No quarter was give by either side, as Albion gradually established a foothold in the game once again and Stack had to be alert to deny a fierce Ellington drive.
However, extra time always looked the likeliest outcome and Robson handed his second debut of the night as the first period of extra time commenced.
Rob Davies replaced Junichi Inamoto, but before he had adjusted to the pace of the game, Lita had garnered a hat-trick.
James Harper advanced into the penalty area and bulldozed his way through a weak Martin Albrechsten tackle to set up Lita 12 yards from goal.
He made no mistake with a measured finish that sent the Madejski Stadium into raptures and deflated a weary Albion outfit.
Lita was substituted to a standing ovation, as Albion toiled and became the 18th team in succession to leave Berkshire without a victory.