HARTLEPOOL United’s Wembley dream is over.
Pools were beaten 5-4 on penalties by Rotherham in a dramatic Papa John’s Trophy semi-final after a pulsating tie finished 2-2.
Graeme Lee’s blue and white heroes led twice through Joe Grey and Luke Molyneux, only to be pegged back on each occasion by Michael Smith.
It meant spot-kicks were required to settle the tie, just as they had for the quarter-final triumph over Charlton.
Pools won the toss and had first go at the Town End with Nicky Featherstone, Jamie Sterry and Mark Shelton scoring, with Rotherham’s takers also on target to make it 3-3.
Millers keeper Viktor Johansson shaved low to his right to deny Molyneux but it stayed 3-3 after Ben Killip repeated the save to deny Ben Wiles.
Omar Bogle and Angus MacDonald found the net with the next attempts to take it to sudden death.
Sadly, Tom Crawford blazed wide with Mickel Miller scoring with the next to put the League One leaders through.
The Millers were the first out of the blocks and had two early sights of the home goal.
Tolaji Bola brought a good save from Ben Killip before failing to direct an effort on target from close in at the far post.
Pools took a little time to settle but when they did they threatened when Luke Molyneux escaped his marker and brought a fine save from Viktor Johansson.
From the resulting corner David Ferguson was well wide from range before Molyneux tried his luck from down the right but was off target.
There was fury from the home fans when Grey went down after a coming together with Richard Wood who, after a lengthy thought by the referee, was booked by Bobby Madley.
The home support was up in arms six minutes later when Wood brought down Molyneux but escaped with a gentle word from Mr Madley.
But the Millers did not escape as from the free-kick, Pools took the lead.
Ferguson delivered the set-piece and Grey, the hero of the FA Cup win over Blackpool, headed past Johansson via the post.
The Millers were rattled and there was more anger from the home faithful when Rarmani Edmonds-Green brought down Omar Bogle after Tom Crawford threaded him through.
It appeared that there was a defender behind him and the ref showed Green a yellow card.
There was a third booking at the end of the half for the Millers when Jordi Tuta chopped down Grey.
Smith did not come out for the second half with Michael Ihiekwe taking his place at the back.
It took Rotherham only five minutes of the second period to level.
The Millers won a free-kick centimetres outside the box and Dan Barlaser’s delivery was headed in powerfully at the near post by Smith.
Parity only lasted five minutes as Grey drove forward to find Molyneux whose wand of a left foot did the rest, side-footing the finish home with Ihiekwe helping the ball on its way into the net at the Town End.
Rotherham boss Paul Warne brought on some of his leading players `as subs and one set up the second away equaliser, Chiedozie Ogbene crossing for Smith to head in.
There followed a period of end-to-end excitement, with Bogle heading wide with an open goal in front of him and Crawford skying another great opportunity.
The Millers came on strong and Killip made a great save from Ogbene with Pools clearing before Smith could put in the rebound and then the goalie produced another stunning stop low to his left to keep out Ihiekwe.
A draw was probably a fair result after 90 minutes but the manner of defeat deeply disappointing on Pools after an incredible run in the competition.
Pools: Killip; Sterry, Byrne, Odusina, Featherstone; Crawford, Featherstone, Shelton; Molyneux, Bogle, Grey (Carver 85)
Subs (not used): Bilokapic, Francis-Angol, Liddle, Smith, Holohan, Fletcher
Goal: Grey 29, Molyneux 55
Booked: Byrne 33
Rotherham: Johansson; Edmonds-Green, Wood (Ihieke 46), MacDonald; Tutu (S Ferguson 90), Barlaser, Lindsay (miller 34), Odoffin (Rathbone 46), Bola (Ogbene 61); Wiles; Smith.
Subs (not used): Vickers, Mattock
Goal: Smith 50, 63
Booked: Wood 23, Edmonds-Green 39
Referee: Bobby Madley
Att: 7,532- away 657