Crewe Alexandra 0 Carlisle United 1: The FA Cup, despite its many bruises these days, can still write a tale or two, and if Carlisle United now advance to the third round and land a whopper it may feel like fate that it started like this, with the most glorious fluke.

Give Jamie Devitt credit for chasing a lost cause. No goal is a complete accident when the scorer refuses to give up on the tiny percentage chance of it ending up in the net.

But still. The odds heavily favoured Ben Garratt, Crewe’s goalkeeper, to complete his clearance and tee up a Brunton Park replay. Instead, victory landed in United’s lap, and who knows where Devitt’s ricochet might now take them?

Into tonight’s second round draw, firstly, and then wouldn’t it be the most dramatic plot twist in this season of austerity if they progress further, and then hit the jackpot when Premier League clubs join in?

This being the cup, how about an omen. It is 30 years since Lady Luck similarly beamed at the Blues in this competition, a slapstick own-goal at Scarborough enabling them to host, in an era of hardship, a great Liverpool team.

Another 90 minutes, or perhaps 180, confront them before that kind of possibility again. Yet optimists will hope they have hit an upward trend at just the right time; suddenly able to score by accident in the last few moments of a tight tie.

Devitt’s goals tend to be towards the elegant end of the scale. “This was probably my best one, wasn’t it?” he smiled after this less graceful finish. Those in the away seats weren’t about to mark it down on style. As United’s purple-shirted players headed their jubilant way, there was some scuffling as Crewe tried to retrieve the ball.

One player in red ended up on the deck. When order was restored, ref Lee Swabey showed a yellow card to United’s Anthony Gerrard. It was a feisty end to a spectacle that won’t make this season’s commemorative DVD but which Carlisle certainly edged, partly because Crewe were so tame when it really mattered.

The second half could have been theirs, but David Artell’s team were blunt. This, and some decent defending, allowed United to cope with a drop in performance level, Danny Grainger’s penalty miss in a better first half costing them the chance to take full control.

Carlisle’s skipper is normally a banker from the spot. Garratt’s 23rd-minute save, though, kept an open contest on the boil. It featured, from the off, some attractive Crewe passing between the lines yet it was John Sheridan’s team who looked the more forceful, despite Fleetwood’s decision not to allow Ashley Nadesan, their loan top scorer, to play.

Others had to step up and Devitt, after scoring twice against Newport the previous weekend, was in the early mood for more, clipping a volley wide in the first minute and, a while later, dipping another very close.

In between, Crewe’s invention had created openings on the left, the best of which saw Chris Porter fail to connect with Kevin O’Connor’s low cross. The hosts’ position of 18th in League Two suggests something is lacking even when their ball play catches the eye, and there was agitation in the crowd when they passed riskily along their back line.

Carlisle got a better foothold from the 10-minute mark, their midfielders making steadier use of possession and Jerry Yates some useful darts from right wing-back. After the industrious Regan Slater had tested Garratt from 25 yards, the right-sided route opened Crewe up.

Yates’ run infield set the stage, Hallam Hope sweeping onto his pass outside the defence. Richie Bennett couldn’t convert the cross but the big striker was felled by Garratt as the ball headed behind.

Crewe’s keeper, alas, pushed Grainger’s attempt away, and so we were little the wiser about the path of events. More decisions from the ref annoyed the home contingent, including Artell, while the home side’s lack of punch behind enemy lines must also have been highly frustrating.

One chance before the break saw Macaulay Gillesphey block Oliver Finney’s volley. Alex Nicholls then crossed into no-man’s-land after linking with Porter. A cluster of Carlisle semi-openings passed, then Nicholls burst into great territory, slicing wide.

The mystery of how such a game was still goalless was best answered by this sub-standard finishing. United had, by halfway, looked the more persistent side but Crewe then lifted things a notch and Carlisle’s passing game became less impressive.

Yates and Hope failed to finish decent approach work, in which Devitt often featured, yet United were no longer capable of pushing the hosts back on the flanks as often. Instead, Artell’s side threatened to exploit space with their movement, yet beyond one excellent save from a Charlie Kirk curler, Adam Collin was not forced into undue heroics.

United’s keeper was exemplary at crosses and his distribution was also fine. It was blatant, though, that Crewe lacked an effective number nine. Artell asked subs Jordan Bowery and Callum Ainley to raise the stakes, but it was significant that Garratt, before his clanger, was named man of the match.

He was alert to a Grainger shot when United returned forward. For Crewe, Ainley dribbled dangerously, skipping away from Gillesphey, yet the final ball was either dispatched by Carlisle’s defenders (Gary Liddle, in particular, was excellent) or simply failed to find a target.

At times the direction of travel was one-way, but seldom did Crewe seem able to reach destination. Another sub, Shaun Miller, headed one decent cross over against his old club, while other deliveries drifted by.

So, it appeared, had United’s own prospects, but they have nothing to apologise for in the way they did win it. O’Connor’s backpass was perhaps not ideal for Garratt but Devitt did not have to pursue it with such hope.

That he did, and reaped the ultimate benefit, has created some new possibilities in a season where the Blues need as many as they can get.

United: Collin, Liddle, Gerrard, Gillesphey, Grainger, Yates, Jones (Sowerby 73), Slater, Devitt, Hope (Campbell 81), Bennett. Not used: Gray, G Miller, Glendon, Egan, McCarron.

Goal: Devitt 90

Booked: Bennett, Devitt, Yates, Gerrard

Crewe Alexandra: Garratt, Ray, Hunt, Pickering, Ng, Finney (Ainley 57), O'Connor, Nolan, Kirk, Nicholls (S Miller 75), Porter (Bowery 57). Not used: Richards, Raynes, Jones, Whelan.

Booked: Hunt

Ref: Lee Swabey

Crowd: 2,467 (542 Carlisle fans)