Entering the final minute of the 90, it looked as though our defence of a trophy we won for the first time last February was going to come to an end against a club that has long tormented us in this competition.
Despite taking the lead on the stroke of half-time through Melanie Leupolz, who made the most of a defensive slip-up to smash home a half-volley from Erin Cuthbert’s free-kick, we hadn’t taken advantage of the chances that had come our way earlier in the half, most notably through Bethany England and Sam Kerr.
City drew level shortly after the interval when a mix-up between Ann-Katrin Berger and Magdalena Eriksson allowed Chloe Kelly to fire in the equaliser, a goal which came completely against the run of play, and they looked to have stolen it when Lauren Hemp netted inside the final 10 minutes.
However, there was a twist to come in the closing moments of normal time, as substitute Niamh Charles netted a sublime equaliser, taking a pass by Guro Reiten on her chest and unleashing a looping volley that flew into the top corner and sent the tie into extra time.
Our Norwegian schemer went from provider to goalscorer early in the additional 30, as she got on the end of a Pernille Harder cross to steer it home at the back stick, and then, on the stroke of half-time, came the clincher – and what a show-stopper it was.
Reiten kept her cool on the edge of a crowded penalty box to roll the ball back to Sophie Ingle, who hit a blockbuster strike with her left foot that beat the despairing dive of the keeper and sparked jubilant celebrations on the pitch and on the sidelines. Three goals had been scored in the space of 15 minutes, each of them by substitutes, to turn this tie on its head.
The Academy Stadium has never been a happy hunting ground for us and City’s previous three meetings with us in the competition, each of them at the semi-final stage, had all ended in defeat. That the Blues were able to turn this around when facing a fourth loss to them speaks volumes about the mental strength of this squad.
We’ve now beaten our rivals three times in three different competitions this term, and attention will turn back to the WSL and a trip to Bristol City on Sunday, when we can set a new record for the longest unbeaten run in the history of the competition if we avoid defeat.
Before then, we’ll discover our opponents in the last four of the competition, when Durham face West Ham tomorrow night. The winners will travel to Kingsmeadow in the first midweek in February.