Accrington Stanley’s Wembley dream is over as two late goals sent Bolton Wanderers to the national stadium in the Papa Johns Trophy final.
The Reds were always up against it after Sean McConville was sent off in the 22nd minute for what was judged a high tackle and then Liam Coyle was stretchered off with a serious head injury just after half-time.
Stanley battled valiantly as they came under pressure but Wanderers found a breakthrough eight minutes from time and then, two minutes later, they secured their place at Wembley where they will face Plymouth.
John Coleman had to make changes to the starting XI with Seb Quirk cup-tied although Coyle was able to return to the midfield, despite his ban in the league.
Bolton had former Reds loan keeper James Trafford and striker Dion Charles in their XI.
It was an even if frantic start with the best early chance falling to McConville on 11 minutes but his long-range effort was caught by Trafford.
Charles had a great opportunity to put Bolton ahead on 15 minutes when he broke through with only Lukas Jensen to beat but the Danish keeper superbly denied him with his legs.
Stanley were down to ten-men on 22 minutes when McConville was shown a straight red card for what was judged a high tackle on Conor Bradley near the centre circle.
After that, Bolton dominated the possession but only really tested Jensen once again in the first half, the keeper blocking a strike from Elias Kachunga.
The Reds had limited chances with Tommy Leigh’s strike comfortable for Trafford.
After the restart, there was a lengthy delay within minutes when Trafford raced out of his area and clashed with Coyle who was charging forward.
Both needed treatment for head injuries, Trafford receiving a yellow card while Coyle was stretchered off with Dan Martin replacing the midfielder on 57 minutes.
Charles had the ball in the net for Wanderers a minute later but it was ruled out for off-side and, soon after, a Charles goalbound shot hit his own player while Kieran Lee fired wide in the follow-up.
Kachunga had a strike blocked as Bolton piled on the pressure and, in a real goalmouth scramble, Charles hit the post, the ball came out to Declan John whose strike was kept out by Jensen and then, on the follow-up, Charles hit the underside of the crossbar and the ball bounced to safety.
Bolton continued to force the pace but Stanley still had spells – sub Mitch Clark putting a dangerous ball across the Wanderers’ goal and Aaron Pressley just unable to get to the ball ahead of Trafford after Bolton were dispossessed in midfield.
Wanderers grabbed the opener on 82 minutes when a ball into the box bounced kindly for Kachunga who fired into the top of the net.
Bolton got a second a minute later when Aaron Morley received the ball 20 yards out and rifled it into the net to make it Wembley heartache for the Reds.
Anthony Mancini came on for his Stanley debut in nine added minutes - now the focus is back to the battle to stay in League One.
Stanley: Jensen, Fernandes, Rodgers, Sangare, Longelo, Coyle (Martin), Conneely (Mancini), McConville, Leigh (Woods), Whalley (Clark), Pressley (Adekoya)
Subs: Isherwood, Nolan,
Yellow: Pressley, Coyle
Crowd: 4874 (2625 from Bolton)