THE crowd was a fraction of the full house that had witnessed one of the most stirring Cup nights in Bradford City’s history exactly six years earlier.
But, like those fortunate enough to be at Valley Parade as Arsenal were humbled on penalties by the fourth-tier Bantams in 2012, the 3,486 hardy souls who braved a bitterly cold West Riding evening were treated to a classic.
By the time a truly pulsating FA Cup tie came to an end shortly before 10.30pm, Peterborough United were in the third round and destined to tackle Middlesbrough on January 5.
This, though, tells only a fraction of the story from a night that had brought eight goals, a hat-trick, a leading contender for Goal of the Season, two further ‘goals’ disallowed, a penalty shoot-out and so many efforts on goal that the frequency worked out at almost one every two minutes.
No wonder those supporters heading for the exits after Posh goalkeeper Conor O’Malley had saved three times in the shoot-out looked almost as exhausted as two sets of shattered players who had given absolutely everything in the quest to book that trip to the Riverside.
City, and the lively Lewis O’Brien in particular, could feel hard done by to crash out, but Ivan Toney fully deserved his place in the next round.
Not only did the former Barnsley loanee net the maiden half-trick of his career, but the first of those came via the sort of spectacular effort only a few players are capable of pulling off.
Think David Beckham at Selhurst Park all those years ago for how Toney opened the scoring with a breathtaking finish from the halfway line.
It was brilliant, it was audacious and it set in motion a night of drama so absorbing that even the usual touchline histrionics from Steve Evans, about as popular a figure with Bradford fans as recently ousted former chairman Edin Rahic, were reduced to a mere sideshow.
Even the Scot, with arms stretched out wide in typically theatrical fashion, taking just 11 seconds to berate fourth official Marc Edwards was long forgotten as the goals started to flow.
Toney fittingly set the ball rolling with his stunning 50-yard effort that sailed over the helpless Ben Wilson.
It was a horrible way for the former Sunderland junior to make his home debut and his evening got even worse just two minutes later.
Again, Toney did the damage. This time, though, the Posh striker was much closer to goal when powering a bullet header past Wilson after being picked out by Marcus Maddison’s exquisite left-wing delivery.
City needed a response and fast. It came within two minutes. George Miller, who had earlier fired agonisingly wide following a Ryan Tafazolli mistake, tapped in from close range, but the goal owed everything to the persistence of David Ball.
The Rotherham loanee displayed tremendous determination to get sufficient purchase on a shot that even the best efforts of Rhys Bennett could only turn the ball onto a post, allowing Miller to do the rest.
Ball and Jack Payne then went close before Peterborough restored their two-goal advantage deep into first-half stoppage-time when the excellent Marcus Maddison tapped in from close range.
Considering the contrasting seasons these two clubs are having at opposite ends of League One that could easily have been that.
No doubt it would have been just a few weeks ago, but manager David Hopkin has restored a fighting spirit among his troops. By the hour mark, City were level.
First, Ball fired in after being teed up by Payne, who did well to keep the ball alive after initially failing to connect with an ambitious overhead kick.
Ball then turned provider with a tantalising 58th-minute cross that allowed Paul Caddis to ghost in unmarked at the back post and level matters.
The turnaround was complete 18 minutes from time, Miller tapping in after Anthony O’Connor had headed Payne’s corner back across goal. Posh, however, were far from finished and Toney levelled matters by capitalising on some awful marking to head in Maddison’s cross.
Anthony O’Connor came agonisingly close to sending City through in stoppage-time, but his volley struck the crossbar.
Neither side could make the breakthrough in the additional half-hour despite the number of efforts on goal reaching 57.
This meant penalties, Posh prevailing thanks to O’Malley saving from Karl Henry, Payne and Caddis while only Toney was denied by Wilson in the home goal.
Bradford City: Wilson; Caddis, O’Connor, Knight-Percival Chicksen; Mellor, Akpan (Henry 70); L O’Brien; Ball (Doyle 87), Payne; Miller (Colville 90). Unused substitutes: O’Donnell, McGowan, Bruenker, Wood.
Peterborough United: O’Malley; Ward, Daniel, Bennett, Tafazolli; Woodyard, Maddison, O’Hara (Walker 79), Toney; Cummings (Godden 64), Dembele (Cooper 64). Unused substitutes: Chapman, Naismith, Reed, Denton.
Referee: R Joyce (Cleveland).