Holders Matlock ended a frustrating evening at the Impact Arena on Tuesday kicking themselves for not knocking favourites Alfreton out of this year’s competition.
In spite of being the better side, they wasted a host of chances and then conceded a scruffy 62nd minute winner which saw the National League North outfit through by the narrowest of margins.
Substitute Andre Johnson was credited with the goal which gave the Reds some revenge from their semi final exit at Matlock last season.
Former Alfreton striker Shaun Harrad will feel the frustration more than anyone else, he could and should have put his old club to the sword, having two excellent and a further two more chances to find the net.
But Alfreton, somewhat fortunately, kept a clean sheet and Matlock lost their grip on the trophy at the first time of asking.
A Chris Sharpe header cleared the bar for the Reds in the third minute in a start which saw both sides struggle to gain the upper hand.
Ten minutes later, Jamie Jackson and Harrad combined neatly with Jake Green firing a foot wide from 20 yards and then a fine, explosive 20-yard volley from Michael Williams was a matter of inches over the bar after Alfreton had partially cleared a corner, then shot straight at Elliott.
Harrad’s key chances came either side of the break, first stabbing a loose ball agonisingly wide and missing two one-on-ones which Elliott saved.
Phil Barnes blocked a Marcus Day shot before the winner arrived when from a corner, both Johnson and Tom Allen challenged and the ball was bundled into the net.
Williams again drove off target and a Dwayne Wiley header dropped wide as Matlock battled gamely but ultimately in vain for an equaliser to take the tie to a penalty shoot out.