Nottingham Forest reached the Carabao Cup quarter-finals for the first time since 1994 with a comfortable 4-1 victory over Blackburn at Ewood Park.
Wales international Brennan Johnson scored twice on his return to action after the World Cup, while Jesse Lingard and Taiwo Awoniyi were also on target.
Johnson fired the visitors in front when he neatly dispatched a penalty in the opening minutes after being brought down inside the box by Scott Wharton, and the Premier League side could have had a few more but for Rovers goalkeeper Aynsley Pears making five first-half saves.
Wharton made up for conceding the early penalty with a header to bring Blackburn level at the break.
Lingard put the away side back in front with a deflected free-kick and the visitors wrapped things up with two goals in the final 10 minutes to send Forest through to the last eight.
The Reds looked the brighter of the two sides on their return to competitive action for the first time since November 12 and Johnson had the first chance of the game five minutes in when he was set free with acres of space down the right but drilled his effort straight at Pears.
The Blackburn ‘keeper was forced into a second save two minutes later when Awoniyi tapped a close-range effort straight at him as Johnson proved to be the livewire in the first few minutes.
The visitors were awarded a spot-kick 13 minutes into the encounter as Johnson proved too quick for Wharton’s late challenge. He picked himself up and sent Pears the wrong way to put Forest 1-0 up.
Forward came the visitors again but they found Pears in fine form, as he kept out further efforts from Orel Mangala and Neco Williams.
Rovers made Forest pay for their missed chances and had an unlikely equaliser one minute before the break as Adam Wharton’s inswinging free-kick was glanced home by brother Scott to level matters.
Lingard restored the visitors’ advantage eight minutes after the break when he was brought down by Scott Wharton and his low free-kick found the net courtesy of a couple of deflections which wrong-footed Pears.
The Reds were keen to put the game to bed but an inspired Pears was at the ready to keep out further efforts from Lingard, Awoniyi and Joe Worrall before he scrambled across his goal to claw Johnson’s header from crossing the line.
Forest finally put the tie to bed with just over 10 minutes remaining when Lingard slipped through Awoniyi to coolly finish and Johnson’s drilled effort with the last kick of the game made it four to dump the Championship side out of the competition.
Cooper: We could’ve been more ruthless and aggressive
Nottingham Forest boss Steve Cooper felt his side could have been more “ruthless and aggressive” in the win.
Cooper said: “I thought we could have been a bit more ruthless and aggressive with our play and because we weren’t quite at that, we allowed Blackburn to have some moments.
“We should have been out of sight after 15 or 20 minutes – eventually we got the first goal but I wanted the team to step on and take the game away from Blackburn.
“I never felt like we did not control the game but I did not like our decision making after the goal. We should never have been in that situation in the first place.”
Cooper hailed the performance of attacker Johnson, who scored two on his return from World Cup duty.
He said: “I thought Brennan was a right threat today, and thought it was only a matter of time before he created and scored again.
“I thought he was excellent tonight, he was the real threat in the game and he took the penalty really well, he committed to his technique and decision so he looked clinical.
“So job well done and a load of positives but also some bits that I didn’t quite like in that performance as well.”
Tomasson: Carabao Cup journey has been good
Blackburn manager Jon Dahl Tomasson knew it was going to be a tough ask coming up against a Premier League side.
Championship Rovers made 11 changes to the side from their 2-0 victory over Norwich at the weekend but Tomasson insists his younger players will learn from the experience.
He said: “We knew it was going to be a challenge playing a Premier League club who have invested a lot of money.
“This journey we have had in the cup has been good and has been one where we have played young players.
“For the young players, they will learn from playing a Premier League club. It’s difficult to find positive things but we are always looking at the development and also getting the balance right, and what is coming up in the upcoming period.”
What’s next for Blackburn and Nottingham Forest?
Blackburn travel to Sunderland on Boxing Day in the Championship; kick-off 12.30pm, live on Sky Sports Football.
Forest, meanwhile, head to Old Trafford to resume their Premier League campaign against Manchester United on December 27; kick-off 8pm.