Three extra-time goals saw a courageous Notts County knocked out of the Carling Cup this evening.
A healthy away following turned out at Molineux with the hope of witnessing a Carling Cup upset. Last season the Magpies turned over Wigan in the FA Cup but this time it was Mick McCarthy's Wolverhampton Wanderers in the way of a spot in the Round 4 draw.
Inside two minutes, Notts had the ball in the net. Ben Davies had fired in a trademark delivery for Lee Hughes to poke under the goalkeeper, Wayne Hennessey, but the celebrations were cut short for offside.
Craig Short's side were by no means looking like a team two divisions below their Premier League opponents and were utilising the 4-5-1 formation well with some neat attacking football. The only threat posed by the hosts in the early stages appeared to be their long-throw specialist, Greg Halford, who almost gained an assist when Nenad Milijas headed over.
John Thompson was withdrawn in the 13th minute after picking up a knock. Mike Edwards slotted in at right-back to replace him, making his first appearance since the Johnstone's Paint Trophy loss to Sheffield Wednesday at the start of September.
Notts were showing great defensive resilience and the home crowd were gradually growing restless. However, they did become momentarily excited when Halford smashed over following an inviting lay-off by Marcus Bent.
Half chances were the most that both outfits were creating. For Notts, Hughes dragged well wide from a lofted Krystian Pearce pass and Alan Judge struck high into the stands.
George Elokobi came closest for Wanderers when he nodded Milijas' corner onto the bar at the back-post. This was followed up moments later by Adlene Guedioura's thumping effort, which crashed against the stanchion behind the goal.
Hughes could have sent County in at the break a goal to the good, as a result of Rob Burch's long punt up field. With space to settle, he targeted the corner but Hennessey reacted sharply to deny him.
The opening of the second period saw Wolves dictate much of the play but it was Notts that almost went in front first. An incisive pass by John Spicer sent Davies free into the channel, though he was unable to fool Hennessey with his chipped shot.
It was only a matter of minutes before the Magpies did go ahead, though, and the visiting fans went crazy as Hughes connected with Edwards' centre to find the far top-corner with a wonderful flicked header. Wanting to show off his West Brom connections on the turf of their local rivals, the forward unveiled a shirt with the words 'Boing, Boing!' penned on, which led to him being shown a yellow card.
The lead could have been short-lived if it wasn't for the legs of Burch. Milijas' hit from distance took a heavy deflection, wrong-footing the stopper, but he managed to stick out a leg to deflect the ball clear.
His opposing number was called into action with a save of similar importance to prevent Hughes from adding a second. Gritty determination by Neal Bishop won the ball for Notts and rounding off a cross-field counter attack, Hughes was prevented from finding the bottom corner by the outstretched foot of Hennessey.
Wolves upped the tempo in search of an equaliser and twice came close - Burch having to push away a grounded cross and Edwards deflecting another strike wide for a corner. Suddenly, on 82 minutes, the match swung heavily in the hosts' favour, when Liam Chilvers was adjudged to have dragged his marker to the ground.
Chilvers was given his marching orders and Milijas was left with the job of dragging his team level from the spot. Vigorously placed into the top-left corner, Burch had no chance of keeping it out and the fixture was sent into extra-time.
It was a huge ask at the start of the game to claim a win against top-flight opposition, but with a man down it was going to be a significantly harder. And, with home fans' favourite Kevin Doyle introduced for the additional play, the odds were becoming increasingly stacked against the hard-working Magpies.
Doyle made an immediate impact, beating Burch with a stunning effort, only to have it ruled out for offside. His next touches, against a stretched backline, led to Fletcher putting Wolves ahead, as he slotted Doyle's centred pass beyond a scampering Burch.
But Notts refused to give up and valiantly battled on. Newly introduced, Smith had an attempt tipped over and Bishop almost found the top corner.
Doyle again made the difference as the end of the first 15 loomed. Burch blocked an initial hit from Fletcher but he was unable to keep out Doyle's rebound.
There looked to be no way back from the two-goal deficit but when Smith rose to nod home Craig Westcarr's cross, there remained hope of taking the fixture to penalties. When Judge's skidded delivery was nearly prodded into his own net by Christophe Berra, the travelling support thought their team had.
With the final whistle fast approaching, the decisive finish came, again from Doyle. As the ball was shifted across the face of goal, the striker calmly slotted into the bottom corner to finalise a 4-2 scoreline.