A SHAUN Pearson header and a late goal from substitute Patrick McLaughlin sent Grimsby Town through to the third round of the FA Cup for the first time in 11 years as they beat Northampton Town at Blundell Park.
In a tight game against the League Two strugglers, one goal looked like it would be enough to settle the tie and set up a potential meeting with a Premier League side in January.
After taking the lead, the Mariners had to face pressure from their visitors but they defended superbly to hold onto their advantage.
And when McLaughlin slotted home in the last of four added minutes, their place in round three was confirmed.
After naming a much-changed side for Tuesday’s FA Trophy victory over Coalville, Town boss Paul Hurst recalled many of his recognised first-teamers for the game against the Cobblers.
Only James McKeown and Sam Hatton remained from the 3-0 replay success over the Leicestershire side, with nine changes made to give the team a more familiar look.
McKeown started in goal, with Hatton, Pearson, Clayton McDonald and Aswad Thomas making up the defence.
Alex Rodman, Craig Disley, Scott Kerr and Scott Neilson were the midfielders, with Ross Hannah and Lenell John-Lewis leading the line in attack.
Hurst opted not to name a goalkeeper on his seven-man substitutes’ bench, which instead featured Chris Doig, Joe Colbeck, Paul Bignot, Andy Cook, Andi Thanoj, Dayle Southwell and McLaughlin.
Northampton made the journey up the M1 looking to secure a place in the third round which could go some way to making up for a poor start to their league Two season which has left them in the relegation zone.
But Aidy Boothroyd;s men did manage to climb off the bottom of the table last week with a 1-0 victory over Accrington Stanley.
Their side included former Town players Joe Widdowson and Ricky Ravenhill, while the pace of striker Chris Hackett was likely to cause problems for the Grimsby defence.
Hannah thought he had been the victim of an infringement on the edge of the Northampton box on three minutes but after he went down, referee Scott Mathieson took no action.
A foul on Neilson gave Town a free kick soon afterwards but Kerr’s delivery was taken by visiting keeper Matt Duke.
The next opportunity for the hosts came when good work by Hannah on the left led to him crossing but John-Lewis could not direct his header towards goal.
A Northampton corner gave them the chance to get the ball into the danger zone but the kick was headed clear by Thomas at the near post.
Pearson was then called into action to head clear a cross from Widdowson at the far post, with a throw-in the result.
A foul on midfielder Gary Deegan gave the away side a free kick inside the Town half on 14 minutes but Hackett’s delivery caused no problems for McKeown.
The long throw of Ian Morris was proving to be one of Northampton’s biggest threats and it was the source of the next chance, when a throw was not cleared and striker Jacob Blyth smashed a shot well over the bar from 20 yards.
At the other end, a pair of Town corners came in quick succession but neither led to a chance in front of goal.
An opportunity did come when a cross to the far post was met by Hannah but he tried to head it into the path of John-Lewis instead of going for goal.
Another Morris long throw was headed away for a corner by Thomas on 24 minutes and Hackett’s kick was headed clear by Disley before Danny Emerton shot over the bar.
Deegan was shown the first yellow card of the game for a trip on Neilson two minutes later but Kerr’s free kick was dealt with by the Northampton defence.
McDonald tried a shot from 35 yards just after the half-hour but Duke was able to watch it sail harmlessly wide of his goal.
Thomas was penalised for a foul on the Cobblers right and Deegan’s flicked header from Hackett’s free kick forced McKeown to make a good save, diving to punch the ball away.
Grimsby’s best chance of the game so far came when a cross from Thomas on the left broke for Hannah on the penalty spot but he could not hit the target with his first-time shot.
Deegan was fouled by Pearson on the edge of the Town box to give the visitors a free kick in a dangerous position right of centre. Hackett hit it but his right-footed shot curled over the bar.
A foul on Rodman resulted in a Mariners free kick in a similar position four minutes before the break but Hannah drilled his shot straight at Duke.
Hackett’s right-wing cross at the other end was flicked over the bar for a corner by McKeown but McDonald was there to head the flag-kick clear.
Two added minutes were played at the end of the first half and with no further chances created by either side, it remained goalless at the halfway point.
No changes were made before the restart and Town were immediately on the attack when a Rodman cross was headed out for a corner.
At the other end, a deflected cross from Morris caused no problems for McKeown.
A long ball from McDonald on 55 minutes was well controlled by Hannah, who worked an opening on the edge of the box and drilled a shot that keeper Duke had to dive to push away.
The home pressure continued and another Hannah shot was deflected over the bar after a long throw from Hatton.
The Mariners had been on top for much of the half so far but they had a lucky escape when a quick counter-attack from Northampton led to Hackett playing a ball across goal but it was too strong for either of the two attackers waiting at the far post.
The first substitution of the game saw Clive Platt replace Emerton as the visitors pushed an extra striker on.
But Town were doing the attacking and they won another corner on the left on the hour, which was headed away by Blyth.
A foul on John-Lewis gave the Mariners a free kick on 64 minutes and from it, they grabbed the opening goal. Kerr’s delivery to the far post was met by PEARSON and his towering header looped over Duke and into the top corner of the net.
Northampton looked for an instant reply and a cross into the Town box led to a collision between McKeown and Rodman.
A good challenge from Hatton prevented Widdowson from crossing at the expense of a corner, which quickly led to another as the away side looked to pile on the pressure.
Colbeck replaced Neilson in Grimsby’s first change of the game, with the Northampton pressure continuing as they looked to get back into the game.
Town attacks were becoming rarer but Duke was called into action when Thomas hit a cross-shot from the left on 75 minutes.
Most of the attacking was coming from the other direction though and Blyth hit an effort that was saved by McKeown from 20 yards after Hatton had given the ball away.
Hannah hit the side netting with a shot from inside the box, before a cross from Thomas was deflected out for a Town corner. Kerr’s kick was punched away by Duke.
A Hackett cross was headed out by McDonald and Widdowson had a shot blocked after the visitors played a short corner.
Another chance for the home side came when a quickly-taken throw-in by Hatton sent Hannah into the box but he could only prod a first-time shot wide.
An effort from Morris was gathered by McKeown at the second attempt, before McDonald conceded a free kick in a dangerous position to the left of the penalty area. McKeown punched Hackett’s ball away for a corner.
Luke Norris replaced Widdowson and Ishmel Demontagnac came on for Deegan as Boothroyd made a double substitution with five minutes to go in a bid to salvage something from the game.
McLaughlin replaced Hannah soon afterwards as Town manager Hurst looked to shore up the midfield and hold onto the narrow advantage his side had earned.
A good chance for the away side to equalise came with a minute to go but Platt could only send the ball over the bar after controlling it inside the box.
Town and their supporters were forced to endure four added minutes as they looked to ensure their cup run would be extended beyond Christmas for the first time since 2002.
But any nerves around Blundell Park were eased when McLAUGHLIN went into the box in the last of those added minutes and kept his cool to slot past Duke and into the net for 2-0.
That proved to be the last action of the game and everybody connected with the Mariners will now eagerly await tomorrow’s third round draw.
They are then back in action on Tuesday night, when Welling United are the visitors to Cleethorpes.