ALBION'S Carling Cup dream came to a disappointing end as a debatable second-half penalty saw them suffer a deserved quarter-final exit at struggling Championship side Ipswich.
A much-changed Baggies team failed to find top gear on a freezing night at Portman Road and were a pale shadow of the side that had performed so admirably in previous rounds.
Both goals led a charmed life in the first-half and a similar pattern followed after the break until referee Mike Jones pointed to the spot for a challenge by Graham Dorrans on substitute Carlos Edwards that looked suspiciously outside the box.
With just 21 minutes left on the clock, Grant Leadbitter stepped up to fire the Tractor Boys into the semi-finals.
Youngster James Hurst was handed his senior Albion debut at right-back as Roberto Di Matteo made nine changes - a policy that had proved successful in the previous three rounds.
The only survivors from Saturday's starting line-up against Everton were Dorrans and Marek Cech.
Tamas Priskin had Abdoulaye Meite twisting and turning in the third minute and he made space to drill in a low cross from the byline that David Norris fired wide from close range.
A minute later, Marc-Antoine Fortuné had Troy Brown back-pedalling before forcing Murphy to beat out his 15-yard drive at the near post.
Jason Scotland looked to have slotted Priskin through on 11 - but Hurst slid in to take it off his toes in front of goal with a last-ditch challenge.
Four minutes later, Priskin raced past Pablo Ibanez into the box after the Spain international lost his footing.
The Hungarian teed up Scotland who forced a point-blank save from Boaz Myhill, with the impressive Hurst first to the rebound to clear the danger.
Giles Barnes pipped Tommy Smith to Hurst's ball over the top in the 20th minute and forced Murphy into a save.
From the resultant Barnes corner, Meite headed the ball back across goal and Simon Cox guided it goalwards, before Murphy collected under his bar.
A minute later, Dorrans' miscued cross had Murphy frantically back-pedalling to turn the ball over.
Somen Tchoyi's left-wing cross on 22 saw Murphy get into a muddle with two defenders and the ball dropped for Cox, who lofted his volley over the keeper - but also over the woodwork.
At the other end, Darren O'Dea headed Leadbitter's right-wing corner goalwards - but Scotland could only nod it away from the Baggies goal.
Moments later, the ball dropped for Leadbitter, whose powerful 18-yard drive was well saved by Myhill - and just evaded O'Dea in the follow-up.
A training-ground routine saw Norris flick the ball up for Leadbitter from a free-kick in the 35th minute and the former Sunderland midfielder fired it straight down Myhill's throat.
Two minutes later, Priskin turned on the edge of the box and Myhill just managed to beat Scotland to his scuffed shot.
A swift Albion break saw Tchoyi cross to the back post where O'Dea's flick with his head was enough to prevent Barnes making a clean contact.
Six minutes before the break, there was a moment of controversy as Priskin went tumbling in the box from Myhill's challenge at his feet.
The hosts appealed for a penalty - but referee Mike Jones waved their claims away.
Roy Keane made a change at half-time, with Edwards coming on for Reggie Thompson-Lambe.
Seconds after the restart, Scotland flashed a low drive past Myhill but also inches wide of the far post.
On 48, Dorrans floated the ball over Brown in the box and Cox chested it down before firing a whisker wide of the right-hand post from 12 yards.
Town should have taken the lead in the 63rd minute, only for Priskin to head over Townsend's volleyed cross with the goal at his mercy.
Keane made another switch on 66 as Shane O'Connor came on for Townsend.
The Baggies shot themselves in the foot two minutes later when Cech gifted possession to Edwards on the left and the former Sunderland winger burst towards the box.
He was stopped in his tracks by Dorrans' foul, with Chester official Jones immediately pointing to the penalty spot despite the Scotland international's protests that his challenge was outside the area.
Leadbitter stepped up to drill home the spot-kick and give the hosts a 69th-minute lead.
In response, Di Matteo made a change on 72 as Ishmael Miller returned from injury to replace Fortuné in attack.
The Tractor Boys should have doubled their lead three minutes later, but Scotland's close-range effort from Leadbitter's corner was blocked on the goalline by his own man, Priskin.
Good work by Barnes on the right-hand by-line in the 82nd minute saw him pick out Cox, who swivelled and was unlucky to see his shot deflected just over by Brown.
Ibanez came close to levelling five minutes from time - but Murphy pushed his near-post header from Barnes' corner over the bar.
That proved Albion's last chance and, in the final minute, Priskin broke free and drilled the ball across the six-yard box, with Leadbitter coming close to doubling the hosts' lead.
IPSWICH (4-4-2): Murphy; Peters, Brown, Smith, O'Dea; Townsend (O'Connor 66), Leadbitter, Norris, Thompson-Lambe (Edwards HT); Scotland (Healy 89), Priskin. Subs not used: Lee-Barrett (gk), Eastman, Civelli, Murray.
ALBION (4-2-3-1): Myhill; Hurst, Meite, Ibanez, Cech; S Reid, Dorrans; Barnes, Cox, Tchoyi; Fortuné (Miller 72). Subs not used: Carson (gk), Tamas, Morrison, Thomas, Jara, Berahino.
GOAL: IPSWICH - Leadbitter (pen 69).
BOOKINGS: IPSWICH - Brown (foul 41), Priskin (kicking ball away 88).
REFEREE: M Jones (Chester).
ATTENDANCE: 11,363 (Albion fans 1,106).
ALBION STARMAN: James Hurst.
PIC: CUP WOE...Fortune holds the ball up at Portman Road