Andy Todd returned to haunt former club Petersfield tonight as his dramatic late winner booked AFC Portchester a place in the Russell-Cotes Cup semi-finals.
Alex Baldacchino’s first-half strike had looked for so long to be sending the Royals into the last four, before the Rams struck six minutes from time through Stuart Green to have all inside Blanchard Wells stadium readying themselves for a penalty shootout.
But former Petersfield marksman Todd had other ideas and pounced at the death to restore the home side’s advantage and stun the beaten visitors.
Triumphant Portchester had the better of the opening play but failed to test Rams keeper George Hill with a couple of early chances.
Graham Rix’s side did take the lead on 18 minutes, though with a well-worekd goal.
Following neat play down the right, Baldacchino found himself in space 15 yards from goal and sent a precise striker into the net via the inside of the post.
Four minutes later, quick play between the Royals’ three forwards put Todd in the clear in the box but Hill raced from his line to bravely smother the ball at the striker’s feet.
Hill then had to be alert to tip Mason Kirby’s rising shot over crossbar.
And from resulting corner Tom Cain headed straight at the Rams keeper.
Portchester went close again on 33 minutes when a corner from the left flew past Hill and was only half-cleared and Josh Warren tried to convert from close range, only for Chris Harvey to clear off the line for Petersfield.
The impressive hosts almost doubled their lead early in the second hald when Steve Ramsey took aim from 30 yards out and crashed a superb strike against the crossbar and out to safety.
As the second half drew on, though, Petersfield – who ply their trade in a higher league than the Royals – started to create some chances of their own.
On 63 minutes, Billy Connor drove into the box and squared to Matt Andrews at the far post, but his shot lacked power and was cleared off the line.
Connor then burst into the penalty area again and this time the home keeper deflected his shot past the post.
The Rams were not to be denied, though, and it looked like they had taken the game into a penalty shootout six minutes from time when Connor’s shot was partially blocked and the loose ball ran to Green to fire a first-time shot into the top corner of the net.
But in a late twist, the visitors’ hopes were dashed moments later when Royals substitute George Wells raced down the left and saw his shot roll to former Rams striker Todd who tapped in from three yards out to send the hosts into the semi-finals.
Elsewhere, Pete Stiles made a winning start to life as manager of Fareham Town.
In his first game in charge, the Reds recovered from conceding a second-minute penalty to pull off a surprise 3-1 Wessex League premier division win at Aymesbury Town.
Curt Robbins, Jay Ripiner and Simon Woods grabbed the all-important goals.
Bognor, meanwhile, booked their place in the last four of the Sussex Senior Cup with a 3-1 come-from-behind win at Shoreham.
James Fraser, Alex Parsons and Ollie Pearce scored for the Rocks.