A late Alex Fair penalty on Tuesday evening sent Lancing Football Club past division-lower Little Common and into the Peter Bentley Cup final.
The substitute striker scored from the spot 11 minutes from time as Lancers finally broke through against tenacious and hard-working opponents to settle a tense encounter at Eastbourne United’s Oval ground.
Lancers were the better side throughout but missed numerous chances before they eventually prevailed to reach a first major final since 1992.
Ash Bailey’s side were originally set to face divisional rivals Broadbridge Heath but, when the Mid Sussex side were removed for fielding an ineliglble player, Common were re-instated into the competition.
Lancing’s Tom Caplin had the contest’s first opportunity after only three minutes when Will Berry played him through but Common keeper Matt Cruttwell did well to save.
Common player-manager Russell Eldridge cleared off the line from a Josh Spinks volley and the impressive Cruttwell smothered a Berry strike, before the Lancing man suffered a recurrence of his knee injury and was replaced by Fair.
Having weathered the early storm, Common began to grow into the game and went close when Lewis Hole fired against a post.
Cruttwell saved well from Howell and Mike Williamson fired over before Lancers were almost punished for their profligacy in a good spell from the Division 1 side.
Josh Green had been a virtual spectator up until then but he was called into action with a superb sprawling save to keep out Dan Estherby’s excellent strike on the half-hour.
Lancers continued to push for the breakthrough in the second half but Cruttwell kept out Naz Rouane’s free kick and Williamson went close with a header.
Lancers were playing a third match in five days and looked to have run out of steam and ideas but, with extra-time looming, they were given the chance to go ahead.
Fair was brought down in the penalty area and then dusted himself down to drill in the spot-kick with aplomb for his 15th goal of the season.
Lancers had one late scare when Dave Ammoun hooked the ball over the top but they held on to reach the final against Newhaven on May 2.
Lancing manager Ash Bailey said: “I’m pleased, a bit relieved but, above all, immensely proud of the players and the club as a whole. We had the heartache of the RUR semi-final where we felt we deserved to go through to the final, but today we remained positive and determined to reach the final and we have done that.”
Lancers travel to St Francis on Saturday.
LANCING: Green; Mills, Spinks, Sharman, Fenton; Hendy, Rouane, Caplin; Williamson, Berry, Howell. Subs: Fair (Berry 22), McHale (Howell 60), Bygraves (Caplin 88), Fidler, Simpson.
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