A single goal was enough for Stevenage to dump Notts County out of the FA Cup with Budweiser this afternoon at the Lamex Stadium.
Stevenage created the better of the chances in a first half that they dominated from the first whistle. They went in at the break a goal to the good, courtesy of Damion Stewart's own-goal, which was forced by lively winger Luke Freeman.
Notts put in a much better second half performance and created a number of good openings. However, they were unable to put on away and, as a result, were left disappointed by the 1-0 scoreline.
Ahead of kick-off, Martin Allen had described the FA Cup tie as a "million-pound game", as the next stage of the tournament presented a very good possibility of a Premier League draw. A strong Stevenage outfit that had been defeated only once in their most recent 15 outings stood in the Magpies' way.
A day after signing on loan until the end of the season, Jonathan Forte was handed a starting place alongside Lee Hughes in attack. The only other change was the inclusion of Julian Kelly, who replaced the cup-tied Kieron Freeman, while Sam Sodje and Jude Stirling, both back from injury lay-offs, were included on the bench.
Stevenage were the first to threaten from the early exchanges, when wideman Freeman raced onto a long ball into the left channel. His low cross picked out striker Darius Charles, who swept over from 12 yards out.
Boro's next opportunity saw them take the lead, as Freeman, again, latched onto a direct punt forward, catching out the Notts rearguard. The midfielder maintained possession on the by-line and worked the ball away from Stuart Nelson and Alan Sheehan, before firing goalwards, where Stewart, attempting to clear, directed into his own net.
There were concerns that Nelson would have to be withdrawn because of a facial injury, picked up as he attempted to block Freeman's finish. Following an extended period of treatment from physio John Wilson, the stopper was cleared to continue.
Nelson didn't allow the knock to affect him and had to be at his best to prevent Stevenage from doubling their lead. Michael Bostwick had looked set to find the top-right corner with a long-range hit but the stopper leapt acrobatically across his goal to produce a double-handed parry.
Freeman was central to the majority of the hosts' offences and he came close with an individual effort on 36 minutes. Wriggling free of Stewart 25 yards from goal, he struck low towards the bottom-right corner but found the wrong side of the post.
The latter stages of the first half saw County come into the game, with Stewart having a header blocked by Scott Laird and Jeff Hughes firing over from distance. Lee Hughes also forced goalkeeper Chris Day into an outstanding tipping save, though a goal would not have counted, due to an offside flag.
Ishmel Demontagnac was introduced at the interval, at the expense of Forte. The Magpies needed a spark and they appeared rejuvenated after a slow opening 45.
In the first 10 minutes of the second half, Notts twice came close, first through Alan Judge, whose cross from the left flank had to be tipped over at full stretch by Day. Jeff Hughes then nodded across the face of goal and wide from Kelly's floated cross, following a tidy link-up with Demontagnac down the right.
Another switch was made early into the second 45, with Sodje replacing Gavin Mahon. Sodje trotted up front and nearly made an immediate impact, when he connected with Judge's corner, only he didn't get enough on it to test Day.
The Magpies continued to push for an equaliser and Lee Hughes tamed a long ball to tee up Judge inside the area. The Irishman unleashed a stern low volley that Day pushed away with a fine low save.
Sodje's impact up front was noticeable, as he added a variety of flick-ons. From one, Lee Hughes was able to get a shot away but Day was at hand once more to keep his side in the lead with another reaching stop.
Boro remained a danger on the break and they almost made it 2-0, when Joel Byrom raced down the right and found Charles unmarked with a curved centre. The frontman beat Nelson with his low drive but clipped the outside of the post.
Stirling was Allen's final substitution of the afternoon, taking the place of Kelly at right-back. The aim was to launch as many high balls into the box, utilising the utility man's long throw.
Lee Hughes came close to making it pay off, when one of the throws was touched goalwards by Sodje. Hughes attempted to get his head to the ball at close range but was unable to contact well enough to beat Day.
With bodies pushed forward, the hosts could have capitalised on three separate occasions. Stewart blocked bravely to deny substitute Ben May, Laird drove wide after drifting inside from the left wing and Nelson made a crucial save to keep out Lawrie Wilson's one-on-one finish.
County thought they'd levelled late on, when Judge's low attempt from Sheehan's grounded corner almost found its way into the net, through a crowd of players. But, there was to be no replay for Notts, despite them dominating the second period.
Man of the Match: Liam Chilvers