Manchester United rallied from a goal down to defeat nine-man Fulham and advance to the FA Cup semi-finals at Old Trafford.
Marco Silva’s side appeared to be on course for only their second last-four appearance since losing to West Ham in the 1975 final when their world came crashing down 15 minutes from time due to a handball incident.
Willian charged across and cleared after Jadon Sancho appeared to shoot an equalizer into an empty net.
Willian protested and manager Silva was furious after referee Chris Kavanagh gave a corner but VAR advised him to check the pitchside monitor.
Silva was shown the red card before Kavanagh could even make a decision. Willian was also fired after he did so. Then Aleksander Mitrovic, who had put Fulham ahead, angrily remonstrated with the referee and became the third visitor to be sent off.
When the peace was restored, Bruno Fernandes tucked the penalty away.
Fulham had lost two men in the space of two minutes: their manager and the lead.
Marcel Sabitzer headed home Luke Shaw’s cross two minutes later to make it 2-1 to United, before Fernandes added an injury-time third to send Fulham out of the FA Cup.
United will now face Brighton in the Wembley semi-finals.
The sight of Silva pacing up and down the tunnel in rage suggested it is not a defeat he will take well.
Reactions to Manchester United’s FA Cup quarter-final match against Fulham
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Fulham are impressive – until chaos breaks out.
The carnage of the handball incident completely altered the course of a game that Fulham had previously dominated.
They had not experienced an FA Cup final since the days of Alan Mullery and Bobby Moore, and they appeared to be so close.
They would have been out of sight if it hadn’t been for David de Gea.
After Mitrovic pounced at the far post to convert Issa Diop’s flick on, the United goalkeeper saved the game.
De Gea saved a curling Willian shot that was heading for the far corner at full stretch, then denied Mitrovic with another superb save before the Serbian headed a half-decent chance over.
The hosts appeared to be out of ideas, with former United midfielder Andreas Pereira excelling on his return to Old Trafford and Tim Ream leading a solid defense.
That was until Antony led a counter-attack and squared to Sancho, who skipped past Bernd Leno, turned inside Harrison Read, and steadied himself before shooting – with Willian obstructing him on the goalline.
After that, it was chaos.
United is making things difficult for themselves.
We’ll never know what would’ve happened if Fulham hadn’t had such a disastrous few minutes.
However, it is undeniable that United had been abysmal up to that point.
Perhaps their rising number of poor performances is a result of a punishing post-World Cup schedule that has seen them play 13 consecutive midweek matches (with at least four more to come after the international break) as well as an increasing number of injuries and suspensions.
The continued absences of Christian Eriksen and Anthony Martial due to injury have increased the pressure on others to perform.
Casemiro has risen to the occasion, but on Sunday he was serving the first game of a four-match ban for his second dismissal in as many weeks.
It is to their credit, then, that they continue to find a way to win so frequently.
Fernandes in particular drives United forward from central positions, and Shaw has recovered from a difficult few games.
However, without De Gea, they could have been eliminated.