A close range second half goal was enough to dump Carlisle out of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy at the first hurdle as they struggled to find their rhythm on a difficult night in the Potteries.
United created their first chance with a quick break from deep. Miller sparked it with a pass out of defence and Balanta used quick feet to spin and feed McQueen on the overlap. He strode into the box and Alnwick had to come off his line to claim the low cross.
Vale replied with a neat move of their own when Purkiss spread it to McCourt. He whipped a cross in but Hanford showed safe hands.
The Valiants were gifted an opening just 8 minutes in when a loose pass from Miller allowed Dodds to stride forward. Dickinson took over and an accurate cut back gave McCourt plenty of options. He went for a first time shot and Hanford did well to drop down, parry, recover and scoop the ball up before Ikpeazu could pounce.
Sweeney was muscled out of it as he jumped to try to get his head to a McQueen delivery, as the action swung from end to end, and Raynes had to block as Andoh took a touch and went for a snapshot.
Carlisle went close when a Grainger corner caused all kinds of problems as the defence stood still. Raynes challenged but his bullet header smashed into Duffy and Birchall sent it clear.
Pace from McQueen brought another good cross which Rigg was a yard away from touching in. Thompson chased it at the far post and Purkiss had to slide to toe poke it away.
The Valiants created the better of the early chances and they went close again when a half clearance fell nicely for Duffy. He went for an elaborate 18-yard scissor kick and Hanford was relieved to see it drop wide of his upright.
Ikpeazu found himself with an unexpected opening when Duffy clipped a 40 yard free kick into the mix. The big striker couldn't quite get it out of his feet and his volley, when it came, was wayward.
A deflection was needed at the other to protect the home target from a well struck 28-yard Grainger free kick, and Carlisle had to be careful at the back as Vale peppered the box with high balls in what became a very tight game.
United passed their way to a sight of goal ten minutes before the break with Sweeney at the heart of the move. He came close to finishing it off as he skipped past two challenges, but Alnwick was smartly down to gather the shot.
Birchall fizzed one wide from a tight angle in the lead up to the break, and Dodds failed to take a difficult pass down when he looked to be through as the half time whistle blew.
Vale started well after the break but Streete and Birchall nodded wide as they tried to pick up a head of steam and impose themselves on the game.
Anthony Grant rattled a long range effort over as things continued to struggle to get going, and an overhead kick from Sweeney bobbled away as the night waited for a spark. It was almost provided by Rigg when he beat two and sent a deflected shot at the top corner. Alnwick stretched to tip it over the bar.
The hosts grabbed the lead on the hour when touches from Dodds and Ikpeazu left United light at the back. The big striker continued his run and the slightest of dinks was enough to send the ball under the advancing keeper.
The lead was almost doubled when Duffy swung another dangerous free kick at the penalty spot. Dickinson beat Hanford to the flight of the ball and a powerful header dropped onto the roof of the net.
Raynes blocked from Dodds at close range as the home side continued to ask questions, but Carlisle were almost back on terms when Asamoah exchanged passes with Ibehre. The big forward man asked for the return pass and his precise shot had to be cleared off the line with Alnwick well beaten.
Carlisle upped the pressure and another Ibehre rocket was blocked when he unleashed fury on a Grainger set piece. More deliveries followed but it was relief for the home side when a Sweeney touch sent it wide of the post.
The Cumbrians knew it wasn't their night when the tiniest of deflections took the ball onto the top of Ibehre's head when he had an open goal to aim at. And he had another late shot cleared off the line as he found chance after chance late in the day, but the ball just wouldn't go into the net as Vale held onto progression into the next round by the skin of their teeth.
Port Vale - Ikpeazu (60)
Port Vale - Duffy (29), Street (50), Ikpeazu (90)
United - Dicker (37), Miller (65)
Port Vale - Alnwick, Purkiss, Dickinson, Streete, Duffy, Ikpeazu (Hooper 86), Dodds, Birchall, McCourt, Andoh (Daniel 77), Grant. Subs - Johnson, McGivern, Leitch Smith.
Carlisle United - Hanford, Miller, Raynes, Grainger, Dicker, Hery, Thompson (Brough 87), Sweeney, Balanta (Asamoah 68), McQueen, Rigg (Ibehre 68). Subs - Gillespie, Douglas.
Referee - Mr Darren England
Attendance - 2,571 (199 away fans)