Gateshead 3 FC Halifax Town 3 (aet; Halifax win 5-4 on pens) - Shaymen through to last four after shoot-out victory
Matty Brown converted the decisive spot-kick in the quarter-final replay after a nerve-jangling penalty shoot-out which had seen Shaquille McDonald spurn a chance of sending them through earlier in the closing moments of extra-time.
Town got off to a dreadful start earlier in the evening, with their former manager’s current charges going ahead after three minutes.
CJ Hamilton raced clear on the left and Josh Gillies – who nearly signed on loan for Aspin when he was at Halifax – sent his cross, via a half clearance by Scott McManus, back across goal and past Sam Johnson as Town conceded for the first time in the competition this season.
But they were soon level when, from Richard Peniket’s cross, an unmarked Kingsley James rifled the ball in from 12 yards.
It was the first time Gateshead had conceded a goal in over four hours.
Five minutes after the break, Ryan Bowman was perfectly placed to tap in after Johnson could only parry Gillies’s cross into his path.
Bowman nearly extended Gateshead’s lead with a scuffed shot which Johnson gathered just in front of the line.
Town were hanging on by their fingertips with former Shaymen striker Jon Shaw, then Hamilton, both spurning glorious chances to seal Gateshead’s place in the last four within 60 seconds – both shooting wide from no more than 12 yards out.
The hosts were seemingly cruising through to the semi-finals when, in the 90th minute, Connor Hughes looped the ball over goalkeeper Sam Russell from the most innocuous-looking long ball forward.
After only four minutes of extra-time, a quite remarkable turnaround was completed when McDonald produced a superb left-footed drive from the edge of the box after Jordan Burrow’s skilful chest-down.
But the lead lasted until just seconds before halfway mark in extra-time when Gillies was given too much space on the edge of the box, allowing him to drive the ball brilliantly beyond Johnson into the far corner.
With seconds remaining, there was one final twist before penalties. McDonald was played clean through for Town, only for Russell to save his low shot to ensure the drama of penalties would be required to settle the matter once and for all.
Gateshead: Russell, Bennett, Curtis, Clark, Whitmore, Gillies, Mafuta (Ramshaw 14), McLaughlin, Pattison (Johnson 81), Hamilton, Bowman (Shaw 70). Unused substitutes: Chandler, Pearson.
FC Halifax Town: Johnson, Bolton, Brown, Bencherif, Roberts (J Macdonald 67), Wroe, James, Hibbs (Hughes 67), McManus, J Burrow, Peniket (S McDonald 62). Unused substitutes: Porter, Walker.
Referee: Ryan Johnson (Manchester).