Chesterfield moved to within just three victories of a dream Wembley final as they triumphed at Rochdale in the first knock-out stage of the Checkatrade Trophy.
In what proved to be a feisty clash, with both sides having a player sent off, the Spireites ultimately deserved to secure progression thanks to goals from youngster Laurence Maguire - younger brother of former Sheffield United man Harry - and Ched Evans.
It had been a much-changed Spireites team to the one which started Saturday’s FA Cup humiliation at home by Wycombe in the FA Cup.
Boss Danny Wilson made SIX changes to his line-up for the Crown Oil Arena clash, with ‘keeper Lloyd Allinson, Dan Gardner, Connor Dimaio, Rai Simons, Maguire and Evans all returning.
As well as that particular talking point, the hosts were then forced to play in their normal away strip of all red following a pre-match kit mix-up.
Once the action got under way, it proved to be an entertaining, end-to-end opening 45 minutes.
The Spireites led 1-0 at the interval, but both sides created a number of chances.
The visitors went in front after 24 minutes, with teenager Maguire leaping superbly to head home his first senior goal as he met Dan Gardner’s out-swinging corner-kick.
Earlier, Rochdale’s Nathaniel Mendez-Laing forced Allinson into a super near-post stop, while at the other end Simons saw a shot deflected narrowly over the crossbar.
The hosts almost equalised barely a minute after Maguire struck.
Matty Lund fired in a shot which Allinson dived to beat away brilliantly.
Harrison McGahey’s bullet header was then hacked off the Spireites’ line by Evans.
There was drama at the start of the second period when Rochdale were reduced to 10 men.
Only two minutes had passed when Jimmy McNulty clashed with Evans in the hosts’ box, and though both players were yellow-carded by ref Mr Salisbury, it was the Rochdale defender’s second of the game so he went for an early bath.
An unmarked Dion Donohue missed a golden chance to double the Spireites’ lead when he planted a free header wide, and as the hour mark approached the visitors were well on top.
The lead was doubled by Evans, who fired home from 20 yards after latching on to Maguire’s through-ball.
However, after the Spireites’ Tom Anderson was shown a straight red card for flattening Aaron Morley, the pendulum swung again and Dale sub Jamie Allen’s strike was blocked on the line by Donohue.
There were few further dramas, though, as Wilson’s men eased into the last 16 stage of the competition.
*Manager Wilson was delighted with the response of his players to last weekend’s FA Cup disaster
The Spireites boss said: “We were all so frustrated after Saturday, we really needed a reaction.
“Thankfully we got one, and we deserved to get the result in what was an incident-packed game (Tom Anderson and Dale’s Jimmy McNulty were both sent off in the second half).
“We scored a couple of really good goals and this is what we’ll need as we go into the bust Christmas period.
“We have to make sure we get our strikers in those goal-scoring positions like we did here.
“This isn’t an easy place to come and get a positive result, but overall we were worthy winners and we need to take that good momentum into the forthcoming games.”
Anderson will be available for Saturday’s trip to Peterborough as red cards only carry suspensions in the Trophy competition.
Wilson wasn’t happy with the Anderson decision, though.
“The referee could do with taking a look at his own performance,” said the Spireites gaffer.
“I’d say it was very below par.”
Rochdale: Logan, Canavan, McNulty, McGahey, Lund, Morley, Odelusi (Allen, 53), Bunney, Noble-Lazarus (Davies, 46), Mendez-Laing (McDermott, 53), Henderson.
Subs not used: Lillis, Tanser, Rathbone, Thompson.
Chesterfield: Allinson, Liddle, Gardner (Ariyibi, 64), Dimaio, Nolan, Donohue, Simons (Evatt, 69), Anderson, Maguire, Beesley, Evans (Dennis, 64).
Subs not used: Fulton, O’Neill, Morrison, Daly.
Referee: Graham Salisbury (Lancashire).
Att: not announced
Star man: Laurence Maguire.