Bolton Wanderers U18s exit FA Youth Cup after shootout heartache
The young Whites, who reached the quarter-finals last season, looked beaten in the third round tie by an Otis Khan goal just past the half-hour mark.
But second-half substitute William Abbotts rifled home a superb stoppage-time leveller to take the tie into extra-time after the Blades had been denied three times by the woodwork.
No further goals meant a shoot-out and it the first six scored, Wanderers netting through Sam Bailey, Elliot Newby and Jamie Thomas.
But Guillermo Torres saw the fourth hit the post and after Jason Paling made it 4-3 to the Blades, Robert Holding saw his kick saved to send the Whites tumbling out.
It was a disappointing end for David Lee and Tony Kelly’s side after a brave battle.
The hosts started brightly and just 30 seconds were on the clock when Newby’s cross-shot from the right just evaded Torres in front of goal.
Then, on three minutes, midfielder Bailey hit a powerful low shot from 20 yards that Blades stopper Jake Eastwood found too hot to handle but gathered at the second attempt.
In a lively opening on a chilly night at the Reebok, the visitors had their first chance on seven minutes but Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s strike from eight yards was brilliantly kept out by Will Jaaskelainen with his feet despite being wrong-footed.
The 15-year-old was making his Reebok bow at a ground where dad Jussi pulled off just as many similar saves.
But he had no chance on 32 minutes when Sheffield United broke the deadlock.
Joel Coustrain ran through the middle at the Whites backline and timed his slide-rule pass to perfection as Khan stayed onside to drill a right-footer past Jaaskelainen and give the visitors a half-time advantage.
The teenage stopper was in action again nine minutes into the second period when he got down smartly at his near post to deny Jake Eyre.
At the other end, the Whites were frustrated by a solid Blades defence though Torres felt he had a shout for a penalty when he tumbled under a challenge from Ioan Evans, though referee Jason Tyas was unconvinced.
Khan went close to doubling the Blades’ advantage on 65 minutes when he found space in behind to cheekily lob Jaaskelainen from 12 yards but saw his effort bounce on the top of the bar.
With 16 minutes to go, Connor Dimaio did likewise for the visitors but his effort was a 20-yard pile-driver that beat Jaaskelainen but cannoned back off the woodwork.
They hit the frame of the goal for a third time on 79 minutes – this time Khan’s free-kick hitting the post.
There was still time for another fine save from Jaaskelainen to keep out Khan at the near post.
And his efforts were rewarded when substitute Abbotts sent a screamer into the top right-hand corner in the first of three added minutes to force the extra half hour.
There was little in the way of chances after that and it went to the shoot-out which the Blades edged.
The Whites battled bravely, but it could have been a bigger margin in truth as Sheffield United finally progressed to a fourth round clash at either Bradford City or Millwall.
BWFC U18s: Jaaskelainen, Hendrie, Honeyball, Ball, Holding, Bailey (Kennedy 81), Newby, Cvetko, Torres, Hinchcliffe (Abbotts 61), Thomas. Subs not used: Ramsdale, Taras-Nelson, Griffiths.