HAVING established a three goal lead inside the opening 20 minutes, Rovers were cruising and seemingly set to coast to a spot in round three of the FA Cup.

But having quite literally taken their eye off the ball, they gifted Crewe a way back into the match in what turned out to be a remarkable cup tie in which the officials took centre stage.

From 3-0 up it was the hosts who were content to take a replay having played for almost all of the second half with nine men.

A loss in concentration and subsequent foul by Rekeem Harper saw the West Brom loanee dismissed before a contentious decision led to Elliott Bennett seeing red for an off the ball incident.

Crewe capitalised on their two-man advantage to claw their way back and ensure both teams are in the hat for tonight's third round draw.

Harper’s lapse on 33 minutes saw him first lose the ball before bringing down Chris Porter as he tried to atone for his error.

Referee David Webb showed the teenager a red card before Porter picked himself up to reduce the arrears.

Eleven minutes after the re-start Bennett was adjudged to have kicked out at Perry Ng after the re-start to become the second Rovers player to be sent off.

From then on in the home side, forced to play for 40 minutes with nine men, were on the ropes.

But Tony Mowbray's side still contributed to their own downfall as a failure to deal with two George Cooper corners saw former Rovers man Eddie Nolan, and then Porter, head home to level the game up.

And in the later stages only some last-ditch defending prevented Rovers from being dumped out of the cup but in the end it finished honours even and the two sides will do it all again at Gresty Road on Tuesday week.

Nothing could have prepared those inside Ewood Park for what was to follow as Rovers flew out of the traps.

Dominic Samuel had a hand in all three goals which saw the home side race into a 3-0 lead inside 20 minutes.

The frontman scored twice and set one up for Danny Graham.

When the third went in, Samuel had scored three and assisted two in his last 54 minutes of first team football as he looks to push his claims for a recall to the League One starting XI.

Samuel's first, after 11 minutes, was fired through the legs of Dave Richards after a neat step-over had freed him off the attentions of Brad Walker.

Samuel then turned provider as an excellent reverse pass played in Graham who slotted the ball calmly into the left corner.

The tie looked over when Samuel slotted beyond the advancing Richards moments later after running on to a Graham through ball.

Prior to their onslaught of goals, Corry Evans had seen a volley blocked by Jordan Bowery while Graham had fired over after being found by an excellent diagonal ball from Elliott Bennett.

But the two red cards changed the game and the visitors responded.

Porter's penalty gave them hope before the break while in the second half Harry Pickering rattled the bar early on.

Two goals in three minutes hauled the League Two side level but to their credit, Rovers hung in there in the final quarter with Jayson Leutwiler denying Chris Dagnall and Porter missing a chance to seal a hat-trick.

While a replay isn’t ideal, it at least comes at a time with Rovers not facing a midweek game until the end of the year.

Between now and then there will be a second cup date with Crewe and if it’s anything like the first encounter the sequel will be quite an event.