Sheffield United failed to reach the third round of the FA Cup when they were beaten by Bolton Wanderers this afternoon.
Phil Parkinson's side seemed to be coasting into the draw when Gary Madine and Sammy Ameobi handed them a 2-0 lead. In open play, United caused plenty of problems but, as Madine underlined, Bolton's strength at set-piece situations was a huge threat. Paul Coutts pulled one back before Josh Vela put the hosts back in control.
Chris Wilder, the United manager, will have been disappointed by the scoreline but impressed his charges did not go down without a fight as Jack O'Connell's late header set-up a dramatic finale.
United were not a full strength but, during a thoroughly entertaining fixture, did not suffer from a shortage of quality or ideas.
Indeed, after Ameobi had wasted a good early chance for Bolton, it was the visitors who enjoyed the better of the game until midway through the opening period.
Stefan Scougall glanced a header wide after meeting Chris Hussey's cross, expertly delivered with the outside of his foot, following Reece Brown's raking pass. The Scot found himself in the thick of the action again soon after when, after finding Caolan Lavery, the United's striker's shot was blocked by a Bolton defender.
United have high hopes for Ramsdale and, in the 28th minute, the England youth international proved exactly why. Gary Madine was preparing to celebrate after heading Jay Spearing's corner goalwards. Until, that was, the teenager's hand diverted the ball over the crossbar. Two further saves, to deny Madine and Mark Beevers during a scramble inside the six yard area, further underlined Ramsdale's quality. But he was left horribly exposed when Madine finally took advantage of Bolton's dominance at set-pieces and Ameobi doubled the hosts advantage immediately after the restart.
Coutts kept the contest alive when his deflected effort from distance saw him become only the ninth visiting player to score at the MacronStadium this season. O'Connell became the 10th but only after Vela had skipped through and slipped the ball past the advancing Ramsdale.
Despite insisting he would treat the competition with the utmost respect, Wilder's hand was forced when Harry Chapman suffered an injury on the eve of the match. The midfielder, on loan from Middlesbrough, had been scheduled to feature after scoring a hat-trick in the previous round. Chapman is scheduled to undergo a scan on his damaged ankle tomorrow but, with Mark Duffy surviving a recent fitness scare of his own, United withdrew him from the starting eleven too.
Scougall, one of those to profit from the changes, glanced a header wide after 12 minutes before missing a glorious chance in the 36th, Kieron Freeman's cushioned header prised apart Bolton's defence but his team mate inexplicably volleyed wide. It proved a costly miss when, after the match officials failed to spot David Wheater's 28th minute strike had crossed the line, Madine converted Andrew Taylor's long-throw after it was flicked on by Lawrie Wilson.
Ameobi fired a superb finish beyond Ramsdale in the 46th minute but Coutts reduced the deficit 18 minutes later with a low drive which sneaked into the bottom corner of Ben Alnwick's net. Madine fluffed his lines when Zak Clough, despite appearing suspiciously offside, broke into space. Vela scored in the 84th minute after ghosting into space. Two minutes later, O'Connell headed home John Fleck's corner at the near post but United could not claim an equaliser.
Bolton Wanderers: Alnwick, Beevers, Vela, Spearing, Clough, Madine (Proctor 85), A Taylor, Ameobi (C Taylor 79), Wilson, Wheater, Thorpe (Osede 75). Not used: Turner, Buxton, Moxey, Anderson.
Sheffield United: Ramsdale, Hussey, Fleck, O'Connell, Basham, Scougall (Sharp 85), Lavery, Brown (Duffy 49), Coutts, Freeman, Clarke. Not used: Moore, Done, Reed, Whiteman, Lafferty.
Referee: Lee Probert (Gloucestershire).