CHESTER City fans and officials breathed a huge sigh of relief yesterday as Bury's appeal against their FA Cup expulsion failed.
The Shakers were kicked out last week for fielding an ineligible player in their second-round win over the Blues, who were handed a welcome return to the competition at the Lancashire club's expense.
Infuriated by the severity of the punishment handed down by the FA, Bury launched an instant appeal - but their case was rejected after an hour-long hearing in London yesterday.
The Blues are now definitely back in the FA Cup and free to start planning for a third-round tie against Ipswich Town at the Saunders Honda Stadium on Saturday, January 6.
City manager Mark Wright said: 'It's brilliant news for us.
'The FA have stuck to their guns and done the right thing.
'If you play an ineligible player, you get kicked out. Rules are rules.'
Chester director Paul Baker added: 'For the integrity of the game, this was the only decision the FA could make. We'll pick ourselves up and go again. It's a lift for the club.'
City fans flooded the popular 'Deva Chat' internet forum to express their delight at yesterday's news.
One supporter wrote: 'Sorry for Bury, but why allow a club to appeal anyway? Let's just get the result now.'
Another said: 'If you field an ineligible player, that's it - you're out. No appeal, no petitions, nothing.'
The tie against the Tractor Boys will not be all-ticket but it will see thousands of pounds pour into the Blues' coffers.
Chester will bank £24,000 in prize money from reaching round three and could take anything between £50,000 and £70,000 in gate receipts from the Ipswich match - although FA Cup rules state that 50% of that money should go to the visiting club.
Bury were punished by the FA last Wednesday because on-loan Hartlepool midfielder Stephen Turnbull played in their 3-1 second-round replay win at Chester on December 12.
The Shakers had failed to obtain the required written permission for Turn-bull to play for them in the FA Cup.
The 19-year-old had an impressive game and was substituted in the 80th minute.
A statement on the FA's official web-site yesterday confirmed: 'An appeal board today upheld the decision of an FA Cup sub-committee to expel Bury from this season's FA Cup for fielding an ineligible player.
'Bury selected Stephen Turnbull without receiving the required permission from Hartlepool and lodging that permission with the FA.'
Few fans will be aware that Chester have a track record of their own when it comes to being thrown out of the FA Cup. Despite beating Birkenhead 5-4 in a first qualifying round replay in 1901, they were disqualified by the FA because their pitch was too short.