MANCHESTER, England — It was all set up for a famous FA Cup upset as Fulham led treble-chasing Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday.
But in the space of seven chaotic second-half minutes, the visitors were reduced to nine players, had their manager sent off, and conceded twice.
It was a meltdown of epic proportions and United capitalized on it in ruthless fashion to advance to the semifinals with a 3-1 win that keeps its three-pronged trophy pursuit on track.
There is also the prospect of a mouthwatering FA Cup final against Manchester City after the rivals were kept apart in the draw for the last four.
Thoughts of an all-Manchester showdown at Wembley on June 3, however, looked in serious doubt after Aleksandar Mitrovic fired Fulham ahead in the 50th minute of the quarterfinal match.
That was before the game was turned upside down as Fulham's players and manager Marco Silva lost control.
Emotions boiled over after Willian blocked Jadon Sancho's goal-bound shot in the 70th and VAR instructed referee Chris Kavanagh to review the incident on the touchline monitor.
Before the official could even make a decision, he had shown a red card to Silva for remonstrating furiously in the dugout.
Replays showed Willian had clearly used his hand and was sent off as a result. That sparked outrage from Mitrovic, who barged into Kavanagh and was also shown red.
All three dismissals came over a period of 40 seconds.
“Even if I haven’t done something special, I have to control myself," Silva said afterward. “I didn’t say anything special to the ref, he didn’t listen and showed me the red card. It is a moment to control my emotions. The game was decided in the moment.”
All that was left was for Bruno Fernandes to dispatch his penalty and even the score in the 75th.
Two minutes later Marcel Sabitzer put United in front and nine-man Fulham was on its way out.
Fernandes scored a second to make it 3-1 in the sixth minute of stoppage time and set up a Wembley semifinal game against Brighton.
“One thing is important — don’t think too far ahead,” United manager Erik ten Hag said. "Go from game to game.
“We see the progress in the team, but this team has a strong character, strong belief, strong determination to win games. Today was an example of it. When you have difficult period in a game, stay in the game and turn the game.”