United were in Carabao Cup action on Tuesday night as they welcomed Championship side Blackburn Rovers to Brunton Park for the first round of this season's knock-out competition.
The Cumbrians may well have found themselves on the wrong end of a heavy defeat but the scoreline didn't quite tell the full story as the home fans yet again showed their appreciation for the nature of the football on show from their team.
Blackburn were out of the blocks quickly as Nyambe crossed from the right flank, when he overlapped during a spell of early pressure. Liddle hooked it clear, but the ball came back quickly and Armstrong was left all alone as he waited for a touch from Dack. The midfielder obliged and Fryer was left with no chance as a firm shot whistled past him from just inside the area.
United responded with a good move which saw Etuhu shield the ball before spreading it to Liddle. He came inside to use Slater and Campbell, before Etuhu called again when he found space. Hope was available, and his trademark run from wide brought a low shot which Raya had to watch closely.
The Cumbrians were left with what looked like it might be a mountain to climb when Rovers burst clear from deep with bodies to spare. A curled cross skipped off the surface and Fryer was caught by surprise as it bounced awkwardly off his chest. Bradley Dack was on the run and he had the simple task of tapping it into the gaping target from close range.
A 20-yard free kick from Devitt smashed into the wall as Carlisle kept going, and Gillesphey was even closer from a similar distance when he took charge following another foul on the livewire Jamie Devitt. Raya was a spectator as the set piece thunderbolt smacked into the angle of post and bar and then down onto the boot of a waiting defender.
United started to see more of the ball and one-touch stuff from Campbell and Devitt almost put Yates clean through. He eventually won control but his lobbed volley was easy for the keeper to deal with.
The Blues were right back in it midway through the first half when Hallam Hope took matters into his own hands as he bent his run away from his markers. He set Brunton Park alight as he pulled the trigger from 30-yards, with Raya well beaten as it nestled in his top corner.
Home tails were up and the hosts were almost level moments later when Devitt zipped a beauty of a free kick into the mix. Yates challenged, as did Gerrard, but Rovers stood strong and an outstretched boot eventually ushered it away.
United started to look the more likely as crosses came from left and right, but they couldn't quite find the finishing touch as Rovers defended deep. The visitors weathered the storm and they restored their two-goal cushion courtesy of a wonderful piece of skill from Dack. He took a touch with his back to goal, dragged the ball to one side, spun, and crashed a fierce effort into the top corner from just inside the box.
Carlisle had work to do to lift themselves again but they were guilty of making it an even tougher task just before the break when they hesitated to get the ball clear inside their own box. Kasey Palmer couldn't believe his luck as he picked it up, shifted it and then picked his spot.
Campbell and Liddle combined to create a good opening on the stroke of half time, but Devitt couldn't quite wrap his boot round it and Raya was grateful as it came at him at chest height. Adam Campbell then brought the crowd to its feet when he took a pass onto his toe end with a deft touch from Liddle. His shot had goal written all over it until it hit the underside of the bar and bounced away to safety.
Another good chance fell to Hope when he squirmed out of a challenge to steam into the area. He tried to place his effort but it screwed sharply off his toe and bounced wide of the upright. Devitt then had a go from a similar distance but he got his bearings wrong and Raya was able to let it pass safely on its way.
Excellent wok from Yates brought more applause from the crowd as he twisted and turned away from his marker. A reverse pass released Campbell, but the flag went up for offside to bring the move to an end.
The night was ended as a contest on 55 minutes when a fine through ball sliced the home defence in two. Adam Armstrong timed his run perfectly and he drew Fryer off his line before crunching it home.
Raya spilled a speculative shot from Campbell as the hosts, to their credit, refused to allow heads to drop, but there was nobody on the follow-up and the keeper was relieved to scoop it up.
Fryer denied Dack his hat-trick when he acrobatically dived high to get a fingertip to a deflected shot which came at him from a difficult angle. The touch was vital as the ball dipped angrily towards his top corner.
Hope kept asking for the ball and he brought a superb save from the Rovers keeper as he dropped a shoulder and curled his effort through bodies. It was spotted late but firm hands clawed it away at the very last moment.
It was suddenly all about the keepers and Fryer beat down another stinger from Dack as he kept trying to add to his tally, and Devitt was a whisker away when Hope rolled the ball into his path. He got over it well but it whisked just over the bar.
Rovers managed the remaining time well as they slowed the pace of the game right down, but Raya was needed twice in quick succession as he first pulled off an excellent one-handed save to deny Devitt, only to repeat the feat less than a minute later when Campbell thought he'd registered his first for the club. Substitute Richie Bennett then guided a looped header onto the roof of the net as he tried to make something from a dipping delivery.
More tenacious work from Campbell took him through a series of challenges in midfield and Bennett took over with a surging run before he played the ball off to his left. Campbell was there, but so was Raya, and the front man was denied the goal his performance more than deserved.
Fryer saved from Samuel deep into time added on, and that was that as Blackburn took their place in Thursday night's second round draw.
Carlisle United - Hope (22)
Blackburn Rovers - Armstrong (2, 55), Dack (6, 34), Palmer (40)
Carlisle United - Etuhu (81)
Blackburn Rovers - Palmer (13)
Carlisle United - Fryer, Liddle, Gerrard (Miller 46), Parkes, Hope, Devitt, Gillesphey, Slater (Bennett 62), Campbell, Yates, Etuhu. Subs - Collin, Grainger, Glendon, Adewusi, Egan.
Blackburn Rovers - Raya, Nyambe, Armstrong (Nuttall 62), Rothwell (Whittingham 59), Mulgrew, Bell, Dack, Lenihan, Travis, Conway, Palmer (Samuel 59). Subs - Leutwiler, Smallwood, Downing, Evans.
Referee - Mr Ross Joyce
Attendance - 3,156 (645 away fans)