Hatters left heartbroken by late, late play-off misery
League Two play-off semi-final, second leg: Luton Town 3 Blackpool 3 (5-6 on aggregate)
Luton Town suffered the most gutting of play-off defeats as they were knocked out by a goal in the final 10 seconds of stoppage time this evening.
With virtually the last kick, a corner swung in from the right was met by Kelvin Mellor whose header beat a slow to react keeper Stuart Moore, as Jordan Cook, stationed on the line, saw his clearance hit Town's stopper and dribbled into the net, stunning the majority of over 10,000 at Kenilworth Road.
With 15 minutes to go, it had looked like the hosts were on their way to Wembley, as they had fought back from going behind to Nathan Delfouneso's opener to lead 3-1 with an own goal by Mellor followed up by Scott Cuthbert's header and Danny Hylton's penalty.
However, an error by keeper Moore who was beaten to the punch by sub Armand Gnanduillet saw the Tangerines level the tie overall at 5-5 and then snatch victory at the very end,
Luton chief Nathan Jones kept an unchanged side for the game, with Jordan Cook in for Jake Gray on the bench the only alteration from the side who lost 3-2 on Sunday night, Blackpool replacing Kyle Vassell with Delfouneso.
Hatters opted for the diamond formation, Glen Rea at the base, Olly Lee and Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu either side of Lawson D'Ath, but the visitors began the brighter, clearly setting their stall out to try and manage the game whenever possible, Neil Danns utilising all his experience.
Town looked like the nerves had got the better of them early on, and their mountain got that bit steeper on 22 minutes when some sloppy bits of play were punished as first Mpanzu and then Hylton gave the ball away.
The latter's stray pass went straight to hat-trick hero from the first leg Mark Cullen who powered away from Rea and Alan Sheehan before spotting the completely unmarked Delfouneso who volleyed past Moore to make it 1-0 on the night and 4-2 overall.
Hatters didn't test visiting keeper Sam Slocombe seriously once in the opening 30 minutes, Isaac Vassell's spin and shot an effort he could throw his cap on.
Then, out of nothing, Luton were handed a route back into the game in what was nightmare 30 seconds for visiting defender Mellor.
First he was booked for fouling Dan Potts and then from the resulting free kick, Rea teed up Sheehan whose low drive cannoned off Mellor and into the bottom corner.
Luton should have been in front when Olly Lee's free kick was somehow missed by Scott Cuthbert and rebounded to safety of Dan Potts.
Hylton had two efforts blocked as the volume was cranked up by the home fans, and the roof almost came off when Cuthbert made instant amends for his miss, rising above Slocombe to flick Sheehan's wonderfully executed free kick into the net
After the break, Luton almost had a third as Mpanzu picked the ball up deep in Tangerines territory and played a lovely pass for Hylton who sidefooted wide from just eight yards out.
Luton continued to pour forward, with a wonderful move involving Hylton and D'Ath played in Mpanzu, but he could only shank disappointingly off target at full tilt.
The tie then looked like it had swung into the hosts favour as they were awarded a penalty on 57 minutes when Hylton went over in the area under a challenge from sub Ian Black with referee Darren Deadman pointing the spot.
Town's leading scorer showed nerves of steel to dink his effort down the middle and in off the underside of the bar, putting Luton 3-1 in front and 5-4 ahead in the tie.
Blackpool brought Gnanduillet on as the visitors started to go that bit more direct, Will Aimson's deflected header needing Moore's attention.
With Pools throwing men forward and finally freeing themselves of their first half inhibitions, there were gaps for Town to exploit and they almost did just that as Lee found Hylton in the area and he sliced wide.
Luton to their credit didn't once come off the accelerator, realising that a fourth would probably kill their opponents off once and for all.
However, they with 15 to go, they almost began to relax slightly and paid the price as from a position of dominance, opted to start playing the ball around between them and going to back to Moore.
When his clearance made its way to Cullen, the striker's searching ball into box saw Moore come needlessly haring off his line and caught in no mans land. allowing Gnanduillet to put the the visitors level when they should have been on their way out.
Sub Bright Osayi-Samuel should have made it 3-3 only to hammer horribly over the top from close range as Town were clearly rocked by the goal.
Lee headed over the top, but bar Mpanzu's drilled cross that hit Tom Aldred and flew over, the visitors looked the stronger in the closing stage, with a number of breaks on the counter, forcing a plethora of corners.
Gnanduillet leathered one such break over the top, but from the final set-piece of the night, Town were cruelly undone as on the final whistle, the hosts slumped to the floor,, disbelieving it was the visitors and not they who now head to Wembley on Sunday week.
Hatters: Stuart Moore, Glen Rea, Stuart Cuthbert (C), Alan Sheehan, James Justin, Olly Lee (Jordan Cook 82), Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Lawson D'Ath, Dan Potts, Isaac Vassell, Danny Hylton.
Subs: Craig King, Stephen O'Donnell, Jonathan Smith, Luke Gambin, Jack Marriott, Ollie Palmer.
Blackpool: Sam Slocombe, Kelvin Mellor, Andy Taylor (C, Bright Osayi-Samuel 74), Clark Robertson, Will Aimson, Nathan Delfouneso (Armand Gnanduillet 58), Brad Potts, Mark Cullen, Tom Aldred, Jack Payne (Ian Black 46), Neil Danns.
Subs: Dean Lyness, Eddie Nolan, Jordan Florres
Referee: Darren Deadman.
Booked: Mellor 36, Taylor D'Ath 59, Lee 80.
Attendance:10,032 (461 Blackpool).