League One high-flyers Doncaster caused an upset by defeating Championship side Blackburn 1-0 in the FA Cup third round at Ewood Park.
Taylor Richards’ third goal of the season three minutes before half-time – assisted in no small part by an Aynsley Pears howler – was enough to put Darren Moore’s men into the draw for the fourth round.
Doncaster showed admirable resilience as the team 17 places higher up in the league pyramid poured forward in desperate search of an equaliser.
But a combination of backs-to-the-wall defending and a remarkable double save from debutant Ellery Balcombe ensured the visitors deservedly avenged their Carabao Cup defeat earlier this season.
Blackburn failed to get past the third round for the third season in succession.
Bradley Dack made his first start for the hosts since December 2019, while Balcombe and Elliot Simoes were handed debuts for Donny, who were without captain Ben Whiteman.
Blackburn enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in the early exchanges but they were twice carved open by Doncaster in the opening 16 minutes.
First, Tyreece John-Jules was played through after a neat one-two with Richards but he could not lift his shot over the onrushing Pears. John-Jules then returned the favour with a defence-splitting flick that allowed Richards to race clear, but he placed his shot wide with just Pears to beat.
Dack whistled a fierce free-kick just wide while Tom Trybull’s perfect cross across the six-yard box deserved to be converted but there were no takers.
Donny hit the front in the 42nd minute after neat passing released Richards. He was allowed to advanced unchallenged and let fly from 25 yards with an effort that, though powerful, should have been saved but it squirmed under Pears into the bottom right corner.
Tony Mowbray’s side started the second half with much more urgency and put their visitors under real pressure that saw Tom Anderson head a Stewart Downing corner against his own post before scrambling clear, and moments later, Dack’s near-post volley drifted narrowly wide.
But Doncaster retained their attacking threat, as Richards played in Fejiri Okenabirhie who was allowed to cut inside before firing straight at Pears.
Balcombe preserved Doncaster’s lead with a wonderful double save 17 minutes from time. His initial intervention to parry Harvey Elliott’s first-time shot was stunning on its own, but he somehow got up to repel Dack’s point-blank effort on the rebound.
Donny captain Anderson put his body on the line to block Adam Armstrong’s goalbound drive, and John Buckley somehow turned wide from close range with the goal gaping as Moore’s men held on for victory.