THE FA Cup does not mean as much as it once did, that’s what they say, right?

Tell that to the Darlington players who grafted so hard to get a draw at League Two Walsall.

Tell the ecstatic supporters, 1,229 of them having travelled, some spilling over the fence when Joe Wheatley scored an equaliser right in front of them seven minutes into injury time, creating a memory that will last a lifetime, that the FA Cup has lost its lustre.

Tell goalkeeper Liam Connell, who celebrated by jumping into the crowd, earning a booking for excessive celebrations.

Tell Alun Armstrong and his staff, who flooded onto the pitch, unable to control their emotions as the underdogs rescued a replay and a place in this evening’s second-round draw.

Tell Darlington’s board, now keeping their fingers crossed the replay will be televised, and it surely will be, which would mean a £33,750 windfall plus gate receipts.

TV chiefs would love a repeat of Saturday’s shenanigans which saw Darlington almost win, almost lose, and then draw 2-2, leading 1-0 for most of the match thanks to Omar Holness, then from the 82nd minute onwards came a whirlwind of cup chaos.

Three goals and two red cards, Darlington going from despair to delight in the most dramatic 15 minutes you’re likely to see in this season’s FA Cup.

Armstrong, a man in demand at full-time with various national and local media seeking his attention, said: “The scenes at the end, I’m just so pleased for the fans because they came in their numbers – it looked as though there were 2,000 there.

“You’ve seen the togetherness of the whole group – we might get reported for being on the pitch, but who cares, that’s what you’re in football for.

“I won promotion at Blyth and got them into the play-offs, and today is up there with those achievements.

“Walsall are a League Two club who were in League One last year, so this is massive for us.”

The replay is pencilled in for Wednesday, November 20, subject to television requirements, and Armstrong added: “The replay’s got to be on TV. We’re a National League North club who have brought a League Two club back to Blackwell.

“The club, the fans and the town deserves it.

“Without them fans this club wouldn’t be here, with them tipping their money in, over a million pounds to keep it going after starting from scratch. Days like this is what they’ve dreamt of.”

Supporters have longed for a such a day, they were owed it.

Playing against a Football League club for the first time since 2010, Saturday was treated as a celebration of what has been achieved since Quakers became fan-owned in 2012, a reward for those who have loyally stood by and been the driving force behind rejuvenation.

Volunteers have dedicated countless hours and raised around £1.4m towards this club - their club – and enjoyed three promotions until some fallow years of late, but there had been no cup ties of note.

Walsall away did not appear to be an exciting fixture, yet it did not dampen Darlington’s spirit.

Walsall are two levels higher but Darlington were in control from the beginning, zipping the ball around with confidence on the wet surface, Will Hatfield and Wheatley snapping into tackles and Jordan Watson asked to calm down by the referee after an enthusiastic challenge.

Watson started as left-back Michael Liddle failed a fitness test on a groin strain sustained in training, and there was no Tyrone O’Neill either, of course, rookie manager Jonathan Woodgate having decided being an unused substitute would be a better use of the 20-year-old’s time.

How valuable to his career watching Middlesbrough play as opposed to playing in a tense cup tie that would have been the highlight of his career so far, is questionable, but Stephen Thompson replaced him and was excellent, as were all of Darlington’s players.

Their bright start was rewarded on 17 minutes when Holness scored his second FA Cup goal this season, tucking home after Jarrett Rivers’ blocked shot fell nicely.

Walsall, on the back of six successive defeats, were woeful, worse than some of the teams Quakers play in the National League North, so manager Darrell Clarke made a radical change with a double substitution on 22 minutes, switching from 3-5-2 to 4-4-2.

His tinkering worked. The Saddlers became the aggressors and substitutes James Hardy and Will McDonald gave Darlington problems, but Walsall were wasteful with their finishing, Rory Gaffney fluffing a golden opportunity after McDonald hit the bar, and in the second half striker Elijah Adebayo was hopeless.

The accuracy of his shooting suggested the football pitch was an alien environment to him.

Quakers were under the cosh for lengthy spells, but would have gone 2-0 up after the break were it not for a terrific save by Jack Rose, tipping a Wheatley drive onto the bar.

“I thought we were so good,” said Armstrong. “They gave us problems and they changed formation and we dealt with everything that they threw at us, I thought we were comfortable.”

The match had been played at a frenetic rate, and somehow stepped up a notch in the closing stages.

The first red came on 82 minutes, Walsall’s Dan Scarr receiving a second bookable offence for fouling Rivers, but Walsall were not done yet and Quakers were rocked by two goals inside four minutes.

Caolan Lavery tapped home after Connell spilled an Alfie Bates shot, and then the goalkeeper somehow fumbled the ball into his own net after a Bates corner leaving Quakers 2-1 down and they went a man down too.

Right-back Ben Hedley received a second yellow for pushing Adebayo, the hapless forward’s only worthwhile contribution.

Darlington did not give up. They battled in the added time, Hatfield won a free-kick and everyone including Connell piled forward for one last chance.

Instead of launching a high ball to the throng at the back stick, Osagi Bascome was clever, playing a precise low pass behind the Walsall defence and in nipped Wheatley, without a goal to his name since last December, to prod home at close range.

It made for the most dramatic Darlington FA Cup moment since beating Burnley in 1998, when they were 2-0 down with ten minutes to go.

Not even a pair of jobsworth Walsall stewards hauling away jubilant players from the supporters after full-time could kill the mood.

“It is tinged with disappointment that we haven’t won it. It’s surreal,” added Armstrong.

“I’m not going to lie, I was absolutely distraught standing in that dugout at 2-1, I thought we’d blown our opportunity.

“We should’ve seen the game through and we didn’t. The players are devastated we haven’t won the game, but we’re overjoyed to have got the result.

“I’ve never felt like that before as a player or manager.

“But what a group we’ve got. The players have done the club proud, that’s all I can ask and we’ve come away with a result.”

Welling, Wembley, Whitby and now Walsall. All dramatic matches in Darlington’s history, the latest earning a place in Quakers folklore – and there is still a replay to come.