JUST when it seemed Northwich had sealed a dream date with FC United, a former Witton Albion player spoiled it.

Neil Black, on as a substitute, scorched in a stoppage time equaliser that earns Prescot a second crack at Ian Street’s men in a replay.

Cables had played catch-up after trailing 3-1.

The hosts’ manager wore a baffled expression afterwards, for the shoddiness that cost his side had been absent until Liam Dodd, after escaping a marker, headed in a corner with five minutes left.

Much earlier, Prescot looked a beaten team.

1874 Northwich took the lead after 14 minutes when Mike Brandon, making his 50th start for the club, arrowed a perfectly-placed shot into the bottom corner after Sakeel Abdullah had laid the ball off.

Prescot might have fallen further behind shortly afterwards, but goalkeeper Ciaran Gibson held on to Matthew Ward’s attempt after the midfielder jinked past a defender.

While untroubled in defence, 1874 toiled to prize open a backline that had kept three clean sheets in four previous matches.

Paul Connor’s shot dipped just wide of an upright, as did Abdullah’s arced attempt after he received Matthew Beadle’s swept pass across the field.

Cables were caught napping in the seconds after half time, failing to react when Beadle repelled a defender’s tackle to shoot past a seemingly surprised Gibson.

His effort lacked power, but it still crept in.

It was similarly unexpected to see Prescot score so soon afterwards, though Charlie Stokar’s chip over custodian Matthew Conkie was executed with a justifiable swagger.

Jolted, 1874 were not knocked off course.

Brandon, forced by Gibson’s alertness to hurry his shot, hooked wide after running on to Connor’s clipped pass.

The front man had a clearer sight of goal on 62 minutes after Beadle had cleverly nudged the ball into his path, but he dithered long enough for the Cables keeper to smother his shot.

Northwich did double their lead on 73 minutes, Danny Thomas skidding a header in off the crossbar after Lee Duckworth swerved a free kick into the box from the right.

Game over, surely? Not quite.

Prescot’s rally was real, and Phil Bannister should have done better than to steer a shot against a defender following Dodd’s dribble.

A second warning followed, this time when substitute Rob Doran reacted quickest to Gibson’s high punt up-field, skipping around Conkie only for Duckworth to divert his shot to safety at the base of a post.

From the resulting corner, Dodd leapt high to make it 3-2.

Street, who had substitutes Lee Jones and Dave Short ready to come on, changed his mind.

He will wish Ward had done the same instead of fecklessly conceding a free kick in the second minute of injury time.

Black, stationed for a partial clearance on the corner of the penalty area, struck a stunning volley into the top corner when the ball was diverted in his direction.

That dream date will have to wait a little longer.

1874 (4-4-2) Conkie (GK), Mitchell, Thomas, Aston, Duckworth, Abdullah (Crofts 78), Woolley, Ward, Connor, Brandon, Beadle Subs not used Fossdyke (GK), Bowyer, Farnworth, Bailey, Jones, Short Goals Brandon 14, Beadle 46, Thomas 73 

Prescot (4-4-2) Gibson (GK), Kilroy, Dodd, McCulloch, Hont, Evans (McLaughlin 76), Bannister, Phillips, Corlett (Doran 65), Milne (Black 75), Stokar Subs not used Reid (GK), Giwa, Green, Cairns Goals Stokar 49, Dodd 85, Black 90 (+2) Booked Kilroy (foul)

Referee Scott Jackson

Attendance 356