West Ham United's Carling Cup dreams were shattered by a dramatic Birmingham City comeback in their semi-final second-leg meeting at St Andrews.
The Hammers were just eleven minutes from a Wembley date with Arsenal when Roger Johnson powered Lee Bowyer's corner past Robert Green to send the tie into extra-time.
Just four minutes into the extra half-hour, Craig Gardner sent the home supporters into a state of delirium when he collected a pass from Stephen Carr before unleashing a rapier-like shot from 25 yards that Green could not keep out.
West Ham attempted to launch a late comeback and score the goal that would have taken them through on away goals, but it was not to be.
Earlier in the evening, it had all looked so positive for Avram Grant's side when Carlton Cole smashed a dipping shot past Ben Foster to put West Ham 3-1 up on aggregate.
In truth, the Hammers should have had the tie all but won in the opening 45 minutes.
Zavon Hines was the first to threaten, racing on to Mark Noble's through ball before forcing Ben Foster into a low save. Cole then went close, flashing a left-foot shot narrowly past the angle of post and crossbar from an acute angle.
West Ham finally broke the deadlock 14 minutes before the break when Cole allowed Wayne Bridge's throw-in to bounce before smashing an unstoppable drive across Foster and inside the far post from all of 25 yards.
With Birmingham seemingly reeling, Noble and Hines again combined as the England Under-21 striker volleyed the midfielder's free-kick against the outside of the post.
Birmingham manager Alex McLeish brought on giant Serbia striker Nikola Zigic in place of Matt Derbyshire at the interval, and the change had the desired effect.
With the Blues adopting a more direct style and West Ham simply unable to retain possession of the ball for any meaningful length of time, the home side almost immediately turned the tide in their favour.
Gardner hit the inside of the post with a rasping shot from one Zigic knockdown before a Bowyer corner fell back into the path of the former Hammer, who let fly with a rocket shot that flew past Green and Noble and high into the net.
Birmingham now had a goal to go with their new-found belief and Green was forced to make a fine save from Barry Ferguson before Johnson's header levelled matters and sent the game into an extra half-hour.
Before then, however, Green had to be at his very best to tip Gardner's low shot from distance on to the post.
West Ham just could not get any wind back into their sails and fell behind four minutes into extra time when the former Aston Villa midfielder stepped forward and smashing a shot past Green.
The Hammers were finally stirred back into life and passed up a succession of opportunities to level the tie on aggregate and go ahead on away goals.
Scott Parker worked space for himself eight yards out, only to scoop his shot wide, before Kieron Dyer volleyed debutant Gary O'Neil's right-wing cross a yard over the top.
When Cole volleyed Wayne Bridge's corner straight at Foster from close-range, the 3,800 travelling fans could sense that it was not going to be their night.
"We didn't deal with Birmingham very well in the second half, they scored from two corners and that's very disappointing," admitted Grant. "It is a huge disappointment for everyone, especially the players who did so much to get this far and the supporters who were behind us all the way.
"We've done well in the Carling Cup. Until now, we've won a lot of games and in the first half we played good football and did well but, unfortunately, we're not at Wembley."