David Artell felt League Two Crewe deserved to be in the second round of the Carabao Cup even before Middlesbrough forced penalties at the Riverside Stadium.
Boro had to come from two goals down to level things in added time but Crewe progressed courtesy of a 4-2 penalty shoot-out win and set up a tie with Aston Villa.
Artell said: “We deserved to win in 90 minutes. This was a three-quarter empty stadium and it’s about mental toughness as much as ability.
“They are not scarred because they are young, it’s about believing you are going to score and this was a terrific night’s football from the boys.
Chris Porter’s 41st-minute goal was followed by Charlie Kirk’s finish four minutes later.
Middlesbrough, who struggled for an hour, then found their feet more to level when substitute Ashley Fletcher’s 75th-minute strike was followed by Marc Bola’s first for the club in the first minute of stoppage-time.
But Crewe, who scored all their spot-kicks, progressed after Britt Assombalonga and Marcus Browne’s poor penalties left Jonathan Woodgate frustrated.
Woodgate, who made 10 changes to the team that lost to Brentford in the Championship on Saturday, said: “It was a terrible performance, not what I want from my teams.”
Forest Green sprung a surprise at Charlton, winning 5-3 on penalties after the tie ended goalless. Debutant keeper Joseph Wollacott, who used to work serving burgers on matchdays at The Valley, had an evening to remember, producing a stunning first-half stop to deny Naby Sarr, saving Jake Forster-Caskey’s 68th minute penalty and pushing Albie Morgan’s shootout spot-kick on to the post.
The Forest Green manager, Mark Cooper, said: “Some of the performances were outstanding. We ask a lot of our players in terms of the risks we take and how we think the game should be played.”
West Brom of the Championship were beaten 2-1 at home by Millwall. Charlie Austin headed West Brom into an early lead on his debut, but Tom Bradshaw equalised, his first goal since his record £1.25m move from Barnsley in January after initially joining the club on loan last August, and Aiden O’Brien struck a second-half winner.
The Millwall manager, Neil Harris, said: “All the players and staff gave Tom Bradshaw a standing ovation afterwards. I don’t always single out individuals, but Tom got his ovation because it’s not just his first goal for the club, which as a centre-forward I know myself, it’s after the injury he sustained.”
There were plenty of surprises elsewhere, as Harry Anderson’s winner saw Lincoln beat Huddersfield 1-0, and set up a second-round home tie with Everton. Cambridge edged out Brentford on penalties, while Reading avoided an upset with a shootout win over Wycombe.
Second-half goals from Aiden McGeady and Charlie Wyke secured Sunderland a 3-1 win at Accrington. Colby Bishop’s second-half penalty had levelled it up for Accrington after Marc McNulty put Sunderland in front at the break.
Barnsley slumped to a surprise 3-0 home defeat to Carlisle, who led at the break through Harry McKirdy and extended their advantage through Jack Bridge’s penalty and Nathan Thomas.
Joe Rothwell scored in stoppage time to clinch Blackburn a 3-2 win against Oldham at Ewood Park. Blackburn trailed to Gevaro Nepomuceno’s first-half goal but levelled through Bradley Dack and after Mohamed Maouche had restored the Latics’ lead, Stewart Downing levelled in time added on before Rothwell clinched it.