ALBION’s FA Cup dream came to an end in the quarter-finals as they were beaten 2-0 by midlands rivals Aston Villa.
Despite being backed by a legion of 6,500 travelling fans, the Baggies tasted defeat at Villa Park for the second time in five days after their last-gasp Barclays Premier League heartbreak in midweek.
Fabian Delph’s 51st-minute goal, drilling low past Boaz Myhill from just inside the area, set the hosts on their way before Scott Sinclair wrapped matters up late on and ensured Villa secured a semi-final spot at Wembley.
But it could potentially have been so different for Albion had they taken one of the clear-cut chances they created, Brown Ideye firing over from close range early on and Joleon Lescott heading wide from a corner after the break.
Matters went from bad to worse in the 80th minute as Claudio Yacob was harshly sent off for a second bookable offence, with television replays showing he did little wrong when challenging Leandro Bacuna.
Villa also finished with 10 men as substitute Jack Grealish also saw red for a second yellow card deep into stoppage time, with ugly scenes both near the end and at the full-time whistle as Villa fans invaded the pitch.
Albion made two changes from the side who started their Premier League meeting in midweek, cup-tied captain Darren Fletcher and goalkeeper Ben Foster making way for fit-again Jonas Olsson - making his first appearance since September – and Boaz Myhill.
And it was the Throstles who were first to threaten the scoreline as Saido Berahino’s effort was parried by Shay Given.
Ideye passed up his golden opportunity to break the deadlock after just eight minutes as he sent Craig Gardner’s low cross over bar from seven yards.
The Albion frontman was next to threaten midway through the first half as his low effort was comfortably collected by Given.
Ideye was again at the heart of proceedings in the 33rd minute as he got his head to Craig Dawson’s superb right-wing cross but Given was on hand to collect.
Given denied Albion once more as he tipped over Chris Brunt’s deflected volley from fully 25 yards.
Myhill was finally forced into action during the closing stages of the first half but it the scoreline was goalless at the interval.
However, that lasted just six second-half minutes as Charles N’Zogbia raced down the right and squared a ball across the edge of the penalty area for Delph to drill low past Myhill.
Albion created an almost immediate chance to draw level but Lescott could only head into the side stanchion at the back post from Gardner’s flicked corner.
Given raced out quickly to deny Berahino before Myhill did likewise to keep out Sinclair at the other end, the Villa forward then wasting a good opportunity just minutes later as he pulled his shot wide when clean through.
Gardner’s clearance harmlessly looped on to the top of the bar as the tie entered the latter stages.
Albion’s task was made even harder 10 minutes from time as Yacob was shown a second yellow card for an innocuous challenge on Bacuna.
And it was left for Sinclair, on loan at The Hawthorns last term, to wrap matters up five minutes from time as Albion chased the game.
The final action of the encounter saw Villa’s Grealish also sent off for a second yellow card.
Villa: Given, Lowton, Okore, Clark, Bacuna, Westwood, Delph, Cleverley (Sanchez 65’), Sinclair, Agbonlahor (Gil 89’), N’Zogbia (Grealish 74’).
Subs: Guzan, Weimann, Kinsella, Calder.
GOALS: Delph 51’, Sinclair 85’
BOOKED: N’Zogbia (foul 14’), Agbonlahor (foul 59’), Grealish (foul 87’), Bacuna (foul 90’)
SENT OFF: Grealish (second bookable offence 90’)
Albion: Myhill, Dawson, McAuley, Lescott, Olsson (McManaman 68’), Brunt, Morrison, Yacob, Gardner (Mulumbu 85’), Berahino, Ideye.
Subs: Foster, Wisdom, Pocognoli, Baird, Sessegnon.
BOOKED: Dawson (foul 54’), Yacob (foul 76’)
SENT OFF: Yacob (second bookable offence 80’)
Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire)
Albion star man: James Morrison