MARK WALTON was the City hero as the Bluebirds flew into the FAW Premier Cup final at a bitterly cold Racecourse last night.
The former Brighton 'keeper, who has understudied first-choice Neil Alexander all campaign, came back to haunt his old club as he saved spot kicks from Hector Sam and Darren Ferguson in a penalty shoot-out.
That sets up an all-South Wales final in May with City playing the winners of the Swansea-Barry showdown at The Vetch next Tuesday.
But it was rough justice on Wrexham who had seen a late goal from Lee Trundle cancel out Gethin Jones's early goal for Cardiff.
The Bluebirds were much changed from the side who spilled league points to Blackpool at Ninian Park last Saturday - a clutch of stars were rested including skipper Graham Kavanagh and £1.7m Peter Thorne.
Six of the team locked in battle with the Seasiders were included, though. There were run outs for Josh Low, Leyton Maxwell and Leo Fortune-West.
Relegation-haunted Wrexham, 25 points and 15 spots below City in the Second Division table, just weakened the line-up which nose-dived to promotion contenders Brentford 72 hours previously.
Former Swindon man Dan Bennett and Mike Blackwood came into midfield with Trinidad international Carlos Edwards and Wayne Phillips dropping out.
Wrexham fell behind after four minutes. Smart work by Fortune-West released Paul Brayson who cut inside ex-Wigan defender Kevin Sharp with consummate ease. The pint-size raider then squared for Jones, whose left-footer zipped into the net from 12 yards.
The goal had clearly rocked the Dragons and they were retreating again as Des Hamilton skied a rising drive.
Cardiff were warming to their task, but Wrexham served a goal warning after 12 minutes - Sharp nodding over Paul Barrett's right-side cross.
And Denis Smith's team were carving out another opening on the half-hour. Sharp made inroads on the left, Trundle seeing his close-range blast turned away by Walton.
There was plenty of snap in this contest and Bluebirds destroyer David Hughes was cautioned for scything down Craig Faulconbridge.
Green-shirted Cardiff almost bagged a second goal nine minutes from the break - Fortune-West's looping header flipped over the bar by the flying David Walsh.
The North Walians were made a switch at the interval as Edwards replaced Sharp, ex-Manchester City defender Jim Whitley moving from right to left wing-back.
But Wrexham had almost levelled on the stroke of half-time - Trundle doing the spadework, Blackwood firing inches wide from 20 yards.
Home pressure was steepling as the second-half minutes ticked by and Walton thrust out a leg to foil Faulconbridge.
Michael Simpkins hacked Bennett's header off the line. But Wrexham deservedly equalised on 86 minutes - Trundle's left-foot special whistling home from 18 yards.
It was cut and thrust in extra time. Whitley and Faulconbridge missed chances for the Dragons and City sub Martyn Giles - on for Hughes after 56 minutes - skewed wide of a gaping net as the clock ticked down.