Tranmere’s dreams of a memorable cup upset turned into nightmares as they were hit for six by Premier League Swansea.
Rovers were famed for their ability to deliver knock out blows to higher placed opposition at the turn of century, but the 81 place gap between themselves and City proved insurmountable, as Gary Monk’s side breezed into the fourth round.
There was no lack of trying from the hosts, who worked hard and regularly put their bodies on the line.
But when it really mattered, Swansea simply picked them off and displayed a clinical touch in front of goal.
Micky Adams made just two changes from Tranmere’s side who beat Nothampton last week, with Cole Stockton returning for the injured Kayode Odejayi, and Chris Shuker making way for Michael Ihiekwe, who had recovered from an ankle problem picked up before Christmas.
Swansea meanwhile named a near unrecognisable side, from the one that drew with Queens Park Rangers on New Year’s Day.
Indeed, only Nathan Dyer and Bafetimbi Gomis remained as Gary Monk made nine changes, including Gylfi Sigurdsson, Wayne Routledge and Lukas Fabianski making way for the likes of Gerhard Tremmel, Mo Barrow and Jay Fulton who earned rare starts.
The Premier League side had the best of the opening exchanges as Tranmere struggled to get hold of the ball.
However, Swansea were often reduced to long range efforts as they found the Rovers backline standing resolutely in their way.
But it was not until the 21st minute when Owain Fon Williams was called into action, arching his back and leaping high to tip a point blank range stab from Gomis over the bar.
Ten minutes later the lively Emnes came close Marvin Emnes brushed past Josh Thompson before shooting wide, and it was no surprise that the Welsh team took the lead with their next chance.
Nathan Dyer, captain for the day, was the man who scored as, after his initial effort had been blocked, he scrambled a bobbling shot in at the near post from 10-yards.
The goal left Rovers fans furious though, as when the rebound came back to him, the winger appeared to bring the ball down with his hand.
Going behind seemed to wake Tranmere up. Suddenly they began to get hold of the ball and started to put Swansea on the back foot.
Max Power had their first shot in anger on 36 minutes, though his effort took a deflection and was comfortably saved.
He had another go before the break too, nicking the ball off the defender before surging forward and unleashing a wicked shot goalwards which was eventually claimed at the second attempt by Tremmel.
Disaster struck straight after the break for Tranmere though, as Gary Monk’s side ran riot.
They made it 2-0 on 49 minutes, courtesy of a mistake from Steven Jennings, whose misplaced pass fell to Tom Carroll.
The former Spurs striker picked up possession and then breezed past the Rovers skipper before firing in at the near post past Fon Williams.
That really took the wind out of Tranmere’s sails and the game looked dead and buried minutes later when Swansea made it 3-0.
Mo Barrow got in on the act this time, and it was the easiest goal he will ever score, tapping home from less than a yard after great work by Gomis, who dipped past Holmes before slapping a low ball across the six yard box which was begging to be hit home.
The game now fell flat, but Tranmere were gifted a way back into it by Tremmel who dallied on a clearance.
Eventually, the Swansea ‘keeper was closed down by Power, and he watched in horror as his hoof forward hit to the Rovers midfielder and looped into the net to make it 3-1.
No sooner had a door been opened for the hosts though, than it was slammed shut in their face as Swansea restored their three-goal cushion from a text-book counter attack.
It was Gomis who got his name on the scoresheet this time, and it was no more than the French international deserved after an afternoon in which he dominated the Rovers backline.
He was gifted a simple enough finish after Swansea outpaced Tranmere to break forward from Marvin Emnes, who played in Gomis to score.
Rovers were not down and out though.
They kept pushing forward, and with seven minutes left Stockton made it 4-2, nodding home from close range as Holness knocked down Max Power’s free-kick.
But there was to be no revival.
Substitute Wayne Routledge made it 5-2 with five minutes left, calmly passing the ball home from close range after being played into the box.
And then in injury time Gomis made it six, embarrassing Marcus Holness as he turned the defender inside out before slotting home.