Cheltenham Town’s campaign in the Carabao Cup came to a brave end as Premiership giants West Ham United showed their top-flight class to run out 2-0 winners at the LCI Rail Stadium.
Roared on by a bumper home crowd – the biggest since 2013 - the Robins battled superbly throughout and more than went toe-to-toe with their illustrious visitors in a closely fought opening half hour.
Clinical finishing, ultimately, saw the Hammers take control just before the break as strike duo Diafra Sakho and Andre Ayew found the net.
But there was to be fairytale fight-back as the Londoners progressed after an entertaining televised clash.
After a frantic opening period, the first chance of the game fell to visiting striker Ayew after 13 minutes, but after being played into the area he dragged his shot harmlessly wide of Jonathan Flatt’s goal.
The hosts gamely responded as Carl Winchester burst into the box only to place his low shot too close to Adrian before Jordan Cranston tested handling with a deep cross after a busy Mo Eisa found some room.
The Robins were more than challenging the visitors as Danny Wright, on his 100th appearance for the club, tussled with Welsh international James Collins to win a succession of corners. One set piece saw Will Boyle just fail to get over a ball from Storer as his header fell wide.
West Ham always looked a threat when they broke at place and were inches from taking the lead on the half hour mark as Storer headed a corner off the line from Angelo Ogbonna before Sakho was denied by the onrushing Flatt.
It was only a temporary reprieve, however, as the Premiership club made mounting pressure tell on 40 minutes when an incisive ball from Noble found Sakho and his clever turn opened up space before he fired a low shot home.
Moments later the Hammers doubled their advantage when goal-scorer Sakho turned provider as he cleverly fed in Ayew who confidently rolled an effort into the far corner.
Birthday boy James Collins came close to increasingly the lead with a towering header early in the second period while Harry Pell rose menacingly at the other end as he looked to meet Cranston’s ball in.
The always dangerous Eisa sparked into life as he collected a flick from Kevin Dawson, making his home debut, and saw an effort deflected wide before moments later showing his confidence to step inside and fire a powerful effort at Adrian.
Eisa then showed his pace to get in behind but home penalty appeals were waved away after he tangled with Masuaku.
Cheltenham battled to the end and were agonisingly close to late reward when Pell found space at the back post to crash a shot across the six yard box that stretching substitute Dan Holman just failed to connect with.
CHELTENHAM TOWN (4-4-2): Flatt; Forster, Grimes, Boyle (Dawson 45), Cranston; Pell, Atangana, Storer (c), Winchester; Eisa (Holman 71), Wright (Graham 64). Subs not used: Lovett (Gk), O’Shaughnessy, Bower, Thomas
WEST HAM UNITED (4-4-2): Adrian, Byram, Collins (c), Ogbonna, Masuaku; Rice, Noble (Kouyate 73), Obiang, Fernandes (Quina 88); Ayew, Sakho (Hernandez 64). Subs not used: Hart (Gk), Fonte, Cresswell, Haksabanovic
REFEREE: O Langford
ATTENDANCE: 6,259 (1,094 from West Ham)