Despite a performance that earned widespread plaudits, there was still a tinge of disappointment for Sutton at the end of this Emirates FA Cup tie that they had not been able to find the one moment of magic that might well have seen them in the fourth round draw on their own rather than separated from AFC Wimbledon by the word 'or' when the draw is made on Monday. Until the last ten minutes the major chances were Sutton's, but in the first half Max Biamou and Matt Tubbs both failed to hit the target from good positions, and after the break the marauding Biamou drew the best save of the afternoon from Dons' keeper James Shea. Wimbledon's best spell came near the end, and included a penalty appeal for a challenge from Bradley Hudson-Odoi on Barry Fuller that had everyone connected with Sutton holding their breath, but had U's not at least ended with a trip to Kingsmeadow it would have been a considerable injustice.
A packed Gander Green Lane saw a better game than the scoreline suggests, and it was Sutton supporters with the right to get the more excited early on as Roarie Deacon burst through the middle before playing Tubbs in, but the former Wimbledon striker sent his shot wide of the far post. The visitors struggled to force any chances of their own, Dannie Bulman's low shot comfortably saved by Ross Worner when they did have a sight of goal, but it was Sutton who had the best opening as another incisive run from Deacon ended with a pass that sent Biamou away to bounce off a challenge from Bulman and bear down on goal, but despite being on the left of the penalty area he went for a right-footed shot and found only the side netting.
Sutton did have a scare early in the second half when a cross from Andy Barcham took a slight deflection off Simon Downer and looped across goal almost under the bar, but it was the home fans who were on their feet soon afterwards when Deacon and Biamou combined again, Deacon drifting in from the left before floating a pass through to Biamou, whose control and low shot from just outside the area were both excellent, as was Shea's save. Shea came to Wimbledon's rescue again when Craig Eastmond tried to capitalise on a poor back pass, but the keeper came off his line and did just enough to halt Eastmond's progress, forcing the midfielder wide, and his low cross failed to pick put a Sutton shirt.
Only in the last ten minutes did Sutton come under any serious pressure, with Worner blocking a header from Paul Robinson, while Jamie Collins produced a fine interception to prevent Elliott reaching a Barcham cross, and Robinson volleyed just over following a free kick. The most anxious moment, though, came when Fuller's run in to the penalty area saw him goal-side of Hudson-Odoi, who had only been on the pitch for five minutes and whose challenge left most people waiting for referee Keith Stroud to point to the spot, but the official, who had a fine game, ruled that he had played enough of the ball to earn the benefit of the doubt, a decision supported by the video evidence. U's survived, and when they won a free kick in an attacking position in the fifth of the six extra minutes, Cheltenham history was set up to repeat itself, but when the ball fell to Bedsente Gomis his acrobatic volley flew over the bar and confirmed a replay at Kingsmeadow.
Wimbledon: J Shea, B Fuller, P Robinson, D Bulman, D Charles, J Reeves (sub G Francomb 90), D Parrett, L Taylor, T Elliott, A Barcham, S Kelly. Subs n/u J McDonnell, S Owens, C Robertson, D Poleon, A Egan, T Barnett. Booked: Reeves, Robinson.