This was so, so cruel on Newport County, writes Alex Bywater.

Mike Flynn’s heroic Exiles were just three minutes away from adding Premier League Newcastle United to their list of cup giant killings, but it was not to be.

Under immense pressure late on, Jonjo Shelvey’s superb strike cancelled out Tristan Abrahams’ sixth goal of the season and sent the game to penalties.

In the shootout, County had the upper hand when Nick Townsend saved from Joelinton, but Ryan Taylor and Brandon Cooper both failed to convert from 12 yards.

Cooper’s miss was the crucial moment as he blazed over the bar. It was an unfortunate way for the young defender to end what had been a superb display.

Defeat means Newport missed out on a quarter-final spot as they failed to add Steve Bruce’s Newcastle to Leeds, Middlesbrough, Leicester, Swansea and Watford who they have all beaten in the last three seasons. This defeat will hurt no end, but Flynn will surely in time take the positives.

His side deserved more and the £125,000 earned in TV money will be priceless in this Covid era. Flynn made two changes to his side for the arrival of more top-flight opposition to Rodney Parade. Scot Bennett replaced captain Joss Labadie in midfield with Josh Sheehan taking the armband. Padraig Amond – so often Newport’s hero – replaced Taylor in attack.

Newcastle made seven changes of their own, but still named a formidable side with Andy Carroll leading the line and former Swansea pair Federico Fernandez and Shelvey both starting.

Newport, remarkably, were ahead after just five minutes.

Scott Twine unleashed a remarkable shot from 30 yards which hit the crossbar. As Newcastle goalkeeper Mark Gillespie flew through the air, the ball rebounded off the woodwork.

Abrahams picked up possession on the edge of the box and still had work to do, but his low and powerful shot found the bottom corner.

Newcastle’s Jacob Murphy fired in a cross which deflected off Matty Dolan and looked destined for the top corner, but Newport goalkeeper Nick Townsend saved acrobatically.

Shelvey was booked for a nasty tackle on Twine – the two had had previous – and it summed up Newcastle’s frustration. Murphy then had two quick efforts stopped by Townsend.

Dolan fired a Newport free-kick wide and Newcastle finished the first half on top after Amond was harshly booked for a collision with Javier Manquillo.

Murphy was the next to go close as he sprinted through the centre of the pitch, but his last touch at the crucial moment was too heavy and Cooper dived in to save the day.

Shelvey also failed to connect properly with a shot from Ryan Fraser’s knockdown, but Bennett and Amond should both have scored before the break instead of missing the target. Neither side made a change at the break, but Newcastle were denied straight away by a fine Mickey Demetriou block. Townsend then worked miracles again from Fraser and Miguel Almiron.

Bruce had seen enough and introduced strikers Joelinton and Callum Wilson for the ponderous Carroll and Almiron. Joelinton and Wilson cost Newcastle a total of £60million.

Newcastle had most of the pressure, but Newport defended stoutly and wouldn’t go away.

Ryan Haynes had a wicked cross blocked and Amond had a sight of goal as Newport, to a man, stood up to be counted under a siege led by Wilson. Newcastle, though, could just not find an end product.

Murphy shot wide yet again and as Newport tired and got deeper and deeper, Flynn replaced Bennett and Amond with Robbie Willmott and Ryan Taylor.

Cooper then did brilliantly to deny Fraser on the counter attack with a sublime last-ditch diving tackle and Townsend jumped like a salmon to stop Murphy.

The pressure was relentless and Newport looked like they would hold out until Shelvey broke their hearts. The midfielder cut back and forth on the edge of the box before unleashing an unstoppable curling effort into the top corner. Newcastle went for the jugular in six minutes of added time through that man Murphy yet again. With no extra time, Shelvey’s strike – Newcastle’s 21st effort of the night – sent the game straight to penalties. Demetriou, Abrahams, Sheehan and Dolan all scored for Newport, but it was not enough.

Newport County (3-5-2): Townsend; Cooper, Dolan, Demetriou; Shephard, Bennett (Willmott 80), Sheehan (capt), Twine (Collins 90+5), Haynes; Amond (Taylor 80), Abrahams

Substitutes not used: King, Baker, Janneh, Ellison

Goal: Abrahams 5

Booked: Amond

Newcastle United (4-2-3-1): Gillespie; Manquillo, Krafth (Schar 71), Fernandez (capt), Lewis; Longstaff, Shelvey; Murphy, Almiron (Wilson 62), Fraser; Carroll (Joelinton 62)

Substitutes not used: Darlow, Hayden, Hendrick, Anderson

Goal: Shelvey 87

Booked: Shelvey

Referee: John Brooks

Star man: Josh Sheehan (Newport County)