Ten-man Tranmere were given a helping hand from an old friend as they avoided an upset to reach the second round of the FA Cup.
Indeed, it was lucky 13 for Rovers, as after a real backs to the wall second half performance which saw George Donnelly sent off, they recorded their first win in normal time since the end of August.
Thankfully, by the time the striker was given his marching orders, Max Power had already given his side the lead from the penalty spot and a place in the hat for Monday’s draw.
Micky Adams made several changes to the side that drew with Stevenage last week, with Josh Thompson coming in for his debut alongside Liam Ridehalgh and Donnelly.
Perhaps most intriguingly though was the appearance of Eliot Richards on the team sheet.
Only last week, Adams said he had “a long way to go until he gets in my side”, but with Chesterfield not giving permission to Armand Gnanduillet to play in the cup, the striker was handed his first start since Rob Edwards was sacked.
And it was the former Exeter man who looked the most likely to create anything in the opening exchanges, slicing one effort wide from 30-yards after a neat turn, before another shot took a deflection and looped up to make a comfortable save.
At the other end, former Tranmere loanee Ryan Brunt stung Owain fon Williams’ gloves with a rasping 25-yard drive which the ‘keeper did well to save.
Then after Janoi Donacien had headed wide for Rovers, Brunt had a second effort but was not nearly as accurate and was only able to find the Bristol fans behind the goal.
Matty Taylor then scuffed straight at fon Williams before Richards twice tested Stuart Mildenhall.
The striker was causing the visiting defence serious problems, constantly wanting the ball and moving around like a real livewire.
And so just after the half hour, he picked up possession and began a marauding run which ended in a shot being beaten away, whilst minutes later he was fed in by Donnelly only for his low drive to be tipped to safety.
Those were Tranmere’s best chances of the first 45 minutes as their attacks far too frequently broke down in midfield.
Indeed, it was the Pirates who probably shaded the half, although they arguably did not have the best chances.
They came perilously close to opening the scoring before the break though, with Lee Mansell’s dipping shot worrying fon Williams as it landed on the roof of the net.
After the break though, it was a different story.
It did not take long for Tranmere to test Mildenhall, with Donnelly running on to Max Power’s ball over the top and producing a fine save out of the ‘keeper with a volley that was arrowing into the roof of the net.
From the resulting corner, Micky Adams’ side were then gifted their chance as Mark McChrystal needlessly waved an arm at the ball into the box.
A penalty was correctly awarded after the former Rovers player practically punched the ball away from danger, and Power stepped up to take the resulting spot kick, sending the ‘keeper the wrong way as he drilled his side into a 1-0 lead.
Unfortunately for Tranmere, though, they simply do not know the meaning of the phrase “easy win.”
And less than ten minutes after they had opened the scoring, they were reduced to ten men when Donnelly was dismissed.
The striker, who has struggled during his brief stint at Prenton Park, has shown flashes of his aggression since joining the club earlier this season.
But he went a step too far this time as he reacted angrily to a challenge from Tom Parkes and kicked out at the Bristol Rovers defender.
He was quickly given his marching orders and must now face a three-match ban.
The immediate problem for Micky Adams though was his need for some power upfront, and that meant having to sacrifice the lively Richards, who he substituted in favour of Kayode Odejayi.
It took the visitors some time to show their man advantage, but when they did they found fon Williams in fine form as he superbly saved from Ellis Harrison’s powerful drive.
Jake Gosling then hit a free-kick over the bar whilst Tranmere desperately cleared as many attacks as they could by any means possible.
Fon Williams sprung off his line on a couple of occasions to punch clear, whilst Lee Brown blasted another chance high and wide.
And even though Mildenhall was thrown forward as the visitors desperately chased an equaliser, they could not find a way through, with Mark Laird heroically clearing off the line in the dying seconds.
Tranmere therefore clung on for a valuable, confidence-boosting win to make it four games unbeaten under Adams.