Nottingham Forest survived a second-half onslaught to book their place in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup after a 3-2 win over Stoke City.
Forest led 3-0 at one point and looked to be comfortably progressing but Stoke, helped by a red card for Diogo Goncalves, pulled two goal backs and threw everything at the Reds in the final stages.
It was Stoke who had the ball in the back of the net first but thankfully for Forest they were saved by the linesman’s flag after Bojan had slotted under Luke Steele.
In the 19th minute, however, it was Aitor Karanka’s side who went ahead. Ben Osborn chased down what appeared to be a lost cause but he got his reward as a mistake by ‘keeper Adam Federici resulted in the ball pinballing off Osborn and into the net.
Forest were causing Stoke’s defence problems and could have extended their lead before the half hour mark through Diogo Goncalves who spurned two good chances.
Goncalves was involved in the thick of the action once again later in the half but his curling effort was easily read and saved well.
With five minutes to go until half time, Forest made it 2-0. Another defensive lapse by Stoke allowed Daryl Murphy to burst free into the area and rifle an effort into the top corner.
Shortly after the restart, it was 3-0 as Stoke’s frail defence gave way once more. Joe Lolley had seen an effort saved moments earlier but he made amends in the 50th minute, cutting inside from the left and finding the bottom corner.
Forest looked comfortable but that all changed as Stoke got a goal. From just inside the Forest area, Benik Afobe had time to jab a shot past Steele with the outside of his foot.
Afobe almost got his and Stoke’s second in the 68th minute but he was denied by the crossbar after stretching out a foot to get on the end of a Bojan cross.
Goncalves was presented with a great opportunity to kill the game off after being found clear on the left side of the Stoke area but his low shot was straight at Federici.
Stoke’s hopes of making a stunning comeback were given a boost with just under 15 minutes to go as Forest were reduced to ten men. Diogo Goncalves was shown a straight red card for a tackle on Tom Edwards right in front of the two dug outs.
The visiting team set up a tense last ten minutes as they pulled a further goal back to make it 3-2. Adam played the ball across goal from the right and though it missed Afobe, Saido Berahino was on hand at the back post to force the ball home.
With a minute to go of normal time, Stoke missed a gilt edge chance to level it up. Berahino rose highest to meet a floated cross into the box but from close range, the former West Bromwich Albion man headed wide.
An aerial bombardment followed in the dying embers of the game but Forest’s defence were resolute and they did enough to make it three successive victories for the Reds.
FOREST XI (4-2-3-1): Steele (GK); Darikwa, Figueiredo, Dawson, Osborn; Watson ©, Bridcutt; Lolley (Fox 84’), Goncalves, Dias (Cash 72’); Murphy (Grabban 56’)
SUBS NOT USED: Smith (GK), Janko, Yacob, Appiah
STOKE CITY XI: Federici (GK), Bauer (Ince 57’), Williams, Martins Indi, Adam, Berahino, Fletcher ©, Crouch (Afobe 55’), Krkic, Edwards (Campbell 83’) Souttar
SUBS NOT USED: Haugaard (GK), Allen, Shawcross, Martina
REFEREE: Darren England
ATTENDANCE: 12,915 (1,593 away)
FOREST MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Ben Osborn