MILLWALL came from behind twice and scored two goals in the last seven minutes to knock Plymouth out of the EFL Cup and move into the third round.
After Millwall had been the better side for the majority of the first half, Plymouth went in front four minutes before half-time through Jamie Ness, who headed home from a corner.
Millwall increased the tempo in the second half and equalised in the 65th minute through Shaun Williams’ penalty.
But just a minute later the visitors retook the lead when Freddie Ladapo ran through and finished low past Ben Amos.
The Lions made it 2-2 with seven minutes left, substitute Lee Gregory powering in from Jiri Skalak’s cross from the right.
And with just a minute left, two other substitutes combined, Jed Wallace crossing from the left and Aiden O’Brien arriving at precisely the right moment to tap in.
First half – Millwall punished for set-piece sloppiness
George Saville was at The Den doing some fitness work two hours before the game, but he wasn’t going to feature and could still leave this week.
Lions boss Neil Harris handed a debut to Jem Karacan, one of seven changes from Sunday. Fred Onyedinma – who could also leave before Friday’s 5pm deadline – partnered Tom Elliott up front.
Plymouth – who lost 5-1 at home to Peterborough in League One at the weekend – created the first opening in the 15th minute, combining on the edge of the box before Ness got through and he needed a better first touch instead of allowing Mahlon Romeo and Amos the chance to block his shot.
Despite two stands empty – and only a small clutch of Pilgrims in the away end – this was not played at a sedate pace. Millwall were urgent and passed crisply, Williams orchestrating play from midfield. In the 25th minute Elliott nodded down to Shane Ferguson whose half-volley deflected and looked like it could be going in but cleared the crossbar.
Three minutes later the home side appealed for a penalty and potentially had a case when Williams went down in the box after good work from Elliott on the left when he beat three players to cross.
Onyedinma wasn’t as prominent as his strike partner but was playing with energy, and he engineered space for a shot from outside the box that deflected away from Matt Macey’s goal.
The home side were on top, but then a failing of this season saw them fall behind. They didn’t win the first ball from a corner, and Ness not altogether cleanly headed past Amos into the far corner.
Second half – Lions' positive attacking play is rewarded
Millwall picked up the pace after the break. Onyedinma took on two defenders to win a corner and when it came in the ball dropped to Murray Wallace but Plymouth’s Conor Grant cleared.
Skalak was also taking on and beating defenders and when he crossed in the 55th minute Elliott challenged Macey, the ball dropping to the feet of Karacan in the six-yard box but the referee had blown for a foul by the striker.
Onyedinma was dropping a little deeper now and running at Plymouth as well as linking up play well, but Millwall crosses seemed to be attracted to defenders in green and white shirts.
They finally got the breakthrough when Elliott turned to beat Ryan Edwards who took him down and was booked. Williams took the spot-kick, firing low into the bottom left corner.
But all that good work was undone when Williams gave away the ball in midfield. Ladapo was still a long way from goal and should have been stopped, but he went outside defender Wallace and shot low into the far corner.
Before those two goals Jed Wallace had come on for Karacan, which meant Ferguson went to left-back and Conor McLaughlin into midfield. Gregory came on for Onyedinma immediately after the away side’s second goal.
Elliott had a good opportunity to level from Jed Wallace’s cross into the box from the left, but he miscued his header.
With O’Brien on for McLaughlin, Wallace moved into a central midfield position and when the ball broke from a corner he shot but Gary Sawyer blocked.
Millwall’s pressure, and Skalak’s positive play in the second half, was rewarded and it was Gregory in the right place to net his second of the season.
And Millwall got a deserved winner, and some relief after a difficult week on and off the pitch, when O’Brien, typically sensing a chance, secured a place in the last-32 draw.
There is now the prospect of a plum draw against one of the Premier League giants and this win came at a perfect time.
It would have been three successive defeats, but instead there was a comeback and some really good performances, notably from Skalak in the second half.
Millwall are still defensively shaky, but Byron Webster came through another 90 minutes to put himself in contention to face Swansea on Saturday.
Image: Millwall FC