COPENHAGEN (AFP) - Manchester City avoided a tragedy of Hamlet proportions against Denmark's Midtjylland on Thursday after a last-gasp penalty shoot-out gave the English side a UEFA Cup lifeline.
It took until the 89th minute for this second qualifying round, second leg to burst into life when doughty defender Danny Califf unwittingly headed the ball past his own keeper to hand City the aggregate level at 1-1.
That was enough to see the English Premier side into extra-time and a penalty shoot-out in which keeper Joe Hart pulled off heroics to put City into the UEFA Cup first round.
Manchester pressed early as Martin Petrov's left-sided cross in the second minute was cleared by the Midtjylland defence.
But City's new Brazilian Jo was finding it difficult to make an impression on the damp surface and Blumer Elano, who scored two goals against West Ham at the weekend, looked ineffective.
The only good thing for the travelling City fans was off the field, with news that Shaun Wright-Phillips had signed from Chelsea, and Mark Hughes will know how much he needs the firepower after this performance.
At the start of the second half Mikkel Thygesen found a yard of space in the 62nd minute to sneak behind a flat-footed City defence to connect with a neat Simon Poulsen pass but he fluffed the finish.
The away side's defence was looking even more ragged five minutes when substitute Babajide Babatunde rose unchallenged to head the ball over the bar.
Shortly after, Hart had to be snappy to claim the ball from the feet of Babatunde, but the keeper was an observer when the striker was clear on goal in the 79th minute before slicing the ball wide.
Jonas Borring's measured cross was turned over City's bar from three yards by Babatunde, who seemed fated not to score in the night.
And fate beckoned for the Danes a minute from normal time when a hopeful Michael Ball cross was turned into the net by the American Califf - red shirts and red faces all around for Midtjylland.
Extra time saw City push with extra initiative and Michael Johnson raced through on the home goal only to hit a feeble effort at the keeper.
Stephen Ireland was next up on 97 minutes to send a close-range header wide of Lasse Heinze's post to make it two wasted chances in two minutes.
A swerving effort from City's Daniel Sturridge stunned the bar in the 104th minute as the game moved to a penalty shoot-out.
Enter the heroic Hart, who saved two penalties and countless many blushes as City hobbled, rather than strode, into Friday's first round draw.
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