Captain Naomi Cole proved the hero as Crawley Wasps won 1-0 at Oxford United to book their place in the main draw of the FA Women’s National League Cup.
Cole struck five minutes from time, capitalising on a defensive error before beating U’s goalkeeper Paris Sercombe.
It was the second time in two seasons that Wasps had won away at Oxford in this competition – they beat them 3-1 after extra time en route to last season’s final.
Paul Walker’s side were without several key players for the trip. Midfielder Jenny Drury and winger Emma Plewa were both ruled out through illness and injury, playmaker Megan Stow through suspension and striker Rebecca Carter away.
They suffered a further blow when summer signing Sam Pittuck, who scored on her debut in the 2-0 win over Plymouth the previous week, limped off.
Chances were at a premium in the first half, as both teams battled hot conditions at Oxford City FC.
After the break, Wasps ‘keeper Frankie Gibbs fielded a shot from Immy Lancaster, while at the other end sub Hope Nash’s fine ball in could not be converted.
With extra-time once again looming, Cole – who had denied Oxford the win last season with an injury-time equaliser – nipped in to score.
Wasps: Gibbs; Niamh Stephenson (Nash 48), James, Russell, Palmer; Cole, Owen; Stephens (Ledezma-Viso 63), Fleischman, Rabson; Pittuck (Young 22).
Wasps are back in FA Women’s National League Southern Premier Division action this Sunday (September 1) with a home game against Hounslow, at East Grinstead Town’s East Court ground (kick off 2pm).