Sunderland Ladies last night clinched their place in the quarter-finals of the FA WSL Continental Tyres Cup.
The Wearsiders battled to a 1-1 draw away to Sheffield Ladies, before winning on penalties.
In complete contrast to Sheffield’s last home cup group tie against Durham, the first half produced few chances, Sunderland winger Zaneta Wyne the brightest spark with a couple of long-range efforts.
The Lady Black Cats did open the scoring just after the half hour mark, top scorer Lucy Staniforth latching onto a ball over the top before outmuscling Sarah Jackson and finishing beyond Danielle Gibbons.
But Zoe Johnson’s side weren’t disheartened, and equalised just before the break through a brilliant long-range effort from Rhema Lord-Mears into the top corner.
The second half was less cagey, with Sheffield firmly taking the game to their higher tier visitors, but Sunderland had the best chance early on, Gibbons producing a fine save to deny Wyne’s header at the back post.
Sheffield wasted the biggest chance to go ahead when Amy Fearn awarded a penalty after Laws brought down Sophie Jones, but Mel Johnson saw her spot-kick touched onto the post by Laws.
Sunderland missed several opportunities to go ahead too.
Wyne missed a huge opportunity from inside the six-yard box before sub Simona Koren had an effort cleared off the line.
Soon after, Staniforth was also denied on the line by Niamh Cashin, with Gibbons beaten.
Sheffield had a chance in the final seconds to seal it, but Laws once again denied Johnson when through on goal and Jenna Dear clearing another off the line from a corner as the game moved into penalties.
Hannah Cain missed Sheffield’s first effort and when Laws saved Sarah Jackson’s effort, Victoria Williams stepped up to smash home the winner.
Williams was happy to pick up two points from the tie at Dronfield, guaranteeing progress alongside Liverpool into the last eight.
She said: “We’re a bit disappointed we didn’t do it in normal time, because we’ve had plenty of chances to put the game to bed.
“But fair play to Rachael, she’s kept us in it by saving the penalty and making a few other saves and we’ve put the winner away.
“We knew it would be tough. We spoke about that this week and we knew we’d have to earn the right to play here.
“They did give us a tough game, they got back in it at 1-1, we had plenty of chances to put it to bed and I think that’s the only disappointing thing, we didn’t get the full three points.
“Everyone played their part, even to the penalties.
“Lawsy saved a penalty and all I’ve got to do is put it in the back of the net.
“Without her saving that, we’ve got to score another two so it’s a team effort, a squad effort and we’re just happy to get the two points.”
Sunderland Ladies (3-5-2): Rachael Laws; Hayley Sharp, Ellie Stewart, Victoria Williams; Danielle Brown (Simona Koren 76), Mollie Lambert (Abbey Joice 76), Kasia Lipka, Dominique Bruinenberg (Keira Ramshaw 76), Zaneta Wyne; Lucy Staniforth, Bridget Galloway
Subs not used: Sophy Stonehouse, Kylla Sjoman, Rachel Pitman
Ref: Amy Fearn. Att: 203
* England face Bosnia & Herzegovina in a FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifier at Walsall on November 24, KO 7.05pm. Buy tickets (£10 Adult/£1 Under-18) at www.thefa.com/tickets