ON A day of FA Cup shocks, Newport County AFC added their name to the list of clubs to upset the odds in the first round.

Victory over League One Walsall did not register as highly on the Richter scale as wins for Boreham Wood over Blackpool, Oxford City over Colchester United or Maidstone United over Cheltenham Town.

But it was a welcome return to form for County after a disappointing fortnight in League Two and another measure of how far they have come in such a short space of time under manager Michael Flynn.

Frank Nouble’s opener on 18 minutes was also a huge boost as he finally ended his 12-game goal drought with the aid of a big deflection.

And super-sub Shawn McCoulsky took full advantage of his promotion to the starting XI with a superbly-taken strike just 25 seconds into the second half.

Walsall substitute Ama Bakayoko’s glancing header 13 minutes from time made for a nervy ending but the Exiles deservedly held on to claim their place in Monday’s second-round draw.

Flynn welcomed back Mark O’Brien and David Pipe from injury and illness respectively with Scot Bennett and Sean Rigg making way.

And, after weeks of banging on the door, McCoulsky finally got his start ahead of Padraig Amond.

Zeli Ismail’s cross appeared to skim the bar after five minutes but that was as close as the League One side came to scoring in the first half.

Three minutes later Matty Dolan was unfortunate to see his shot deflected behind by McCoulsky.

But this was a fairly even contest until the opener arrived in the 18th minute, immediately after a break in play for Walsall’s Adam Chambers to receive treatment on a knock to the ankle.

A Joe Day punt forward found its way to Nouble, who won the header and beat two players before letting rip with a speculative effort from 25 yards that deflected off defender Jon Guthrie and looped over Mark Gillespie in the Walsall goal.

It was the striker’s first goal since that sublime hat-trick against Chesterfield back on August 26 and took his tally to six for the season – the best return of his career.

The goal brought the home fans to life on a chilly night at Rodney Parade but the Exiles seemed to sit back a little as the visitors enjoyed the majority of possession for the remainder of the half.

The dangerous Erhun Otzumer was denied by an important defensive header by Ben White before curling a shot high and wide from 20 yards.

And Wales under-21 international Tyler Roberts, watched from the stands by national boss Chris Coleman, went close with a drilled effort from Ismail’s short corner.

But, for all their classy touches and neat passing, Walsall rarely threatened Day’s goal and County were comfortable at the break.

And they were even more contented a mere 25 seconds after the restart as White intercepted a Walsall pass and strode forward confidently.

The teenager played an inch-perfect ball inside Luke Leahy and McCoulsky rifled his shot into the bottom corner from a tight angle.

Flynn’s men were in control but there was a big let-off at the other end 10 minutes later as Kieron Morris had the ball in the net only for the assistant to raise his flag incorrectly with White playing him onside.

Nouble went close to with a header from a Dolan corner and County were really starting to enjoy themselves when they conceded at the other end, somewhat out of the blue.

Bakayoko got ahead of Mickey Demetriou in the middle to head Maz Kouhyar’s cross into the bottom corner on 77 minutes.

Kouhyar sent a drive inches over the bar shortly afterwards but, while there were plenty of nervous glances towards the watch for County fans in the closing stages, there were few real scares for Flynn’s men.

County: Day; White, O’Brien (Bennett, 69), Demetriou; Pipe, Dolan, Tozer, Butler; Willmott; Nouble, McCoulsky (Amond, 81)

Subs not used: Bittner, Owen-Evans, Rigg, Reynolds, Jackson

Referee: Gavin Ward

Attendance: 2,701

Argus star man: Nouble