IT was an unhappy return to Tranmere for Paul Cook who saw his Chesterfield side slip out of the FA Cup despite taking a first half lead at Prenton Park.
Cole Stockdale wiped out Liam Cooper’s opener in a pulsating first 45 minutes before Adam McGurk tapped in what proved to be the winner just before the hour.
The visitors rallied late on with in-form striker Marc Richards and Cooper again coming close but the League One leaders held on to progress through to the third round.
Cook, who notched up more than 60 appearances for Rovers in a short spell during the mid-90s, was forced into making two changes to the side that beat Plymouth 1-0 last week.
Craig Clay and Luis Boa Morte returned to the starting line up in place of Chris Atkinson, who was recalled by Huddersfield Town last week, and the cup-tied Brennan Dickenson.
Atkinson continued his rich vein of form by scoring for the Terriers in their 4-2 defeat to Leeds in the West Yorkshire derby.
Rovers were without leading scorer Jake Cassidy who was denied permission to play by parent club Wolves.
The Spireites went into the game confident having already beaten off League One opposition in the first round of the competition when they hit six past Hartlepool last month.
Atkinson’s replacement, Clay, was at the centre of Chesterfield’s first attack of the afternoon. The midfielder broke from halfway and found Richards in the penalty area, but the pull back was just behind the in-form striker who blazed over from 12 yards.
Rovers’ captain James Wallace hobbled off after a whole-hearted challenge with Liam Cooper. Max Power came on as the hosts went in search of the opener.
A defence splitting ball released Stockdale whose rasping shot from the edge of the box was touched around the post by Tommy Lee diving low to his right.
Lee was forced into another smart save at his near post when Stockdale turned Cooper eight yards out minutes later.
The Spireites defender then showed his attacking menace to give the visitors the lead just after the half-hour.
Danny Whitaker’s curling effort forced a corner from Rovers’ keeper Owain Fon Williams. Boa Morte took the flag kick which wasn’t cleared and Cooper was on hand to poke the ball in within the six yard box.
Chesterfield had Lee to thank for keeping the hosts at bay when he got a palm to Michael O’Halloran’s shot after the striker was put through one-on-one.
There was nothing he could do three minutes before the break, however. Power sent Stockton clear and the striker unleashed a powerful low drive that flew past Lee’s despairing dive to level the scores.
Boa Morte was cautioned for an innocuous foul on Rovers centre-half Ian Goodison 10 minutes after half-time much to the annoyance of the travelling fans. Rovers then took the lead when O’Halloran used his pace down the left channel to get to the byline and pull back for McGurk to sweep home under Lee on 57 minutes.
Jack Lester and Mark Randall were introduced in place of Whitaker and Clay shortly after the hour as Chesterfield went in search of an equaliser.
Richards tried his luck from long range but a deflection took all the sting out of the shot and Fon Williams easily collected.
Lee pulled off an unbelievable stop to keep Chesterfield in it from O’Halloran’s point blank header.
Richards then saw his thunderbolt blocked after the striker found space in Rovers’ box. Referee Andrew Madley waved away claims of handball.
Chesterfield threw everything at Tranmere late on but were unable to find a way through and go out of the FA Cup at the second round.
Tranmere will travel to Championship side Derby County for a third round clash over the weekend of January 5.
Spireites (4-4-1-1): Lee; Talbot, Smith, Hird, Cooper; Darikwa, Clay (Randall 63), Togwell, Boa Morte, Whitaker (Lester 63); Richards.
Subs: O’Donnell; Forbes, Townsend, Boden, Wafula.
Rovers (4-4-2): Fon Williams; Holmes, Bakayogo, Goodison, Gibson; McGurk, Robinson (Thompson 78), Wallace (c) (Power 10), Harrison; Stockton, O’Halloran.
Subs: Black, Taylor, Kay, Daniels, Mooney.
Referee: Andrew Madley.
Bookings: Gibson (66), Goodison, Fon Williams (85); Boa Morte (55), Darikwa (65), Hird (75).