The Blues of Cumbria headed into south Wales on Saturday afternoon for a third-round Emirates FA Cup meeting with Championship side Cardiff City.
Head coach Chris Beech made three changes from the New Year's Day game at Crewe with new arrival Elliot Watt getting his first start in midfield. Jack Bridge was also drafted into the starting eleven, as was Jon Mellish, with Mo Sagaf [injury], Jack Iredale and Ryan Loft missing out.
Cardiff created the first chance of the day when Paterson flicked a long kick towards the edge of box. Ward took a touch but his shot was straight at Collin.
Ward then hooked a difficult volley over the bar from close range as a long throw came his way, and the hosts were on the attack again when Whyte clipped a cross towards the back stick. Paterson challenged for it, and the officials ignored his appeals for a penalty as Webster volleyed it clear.
United won a corner on 10 minutes when Hayden went on a charge up the right flank. Watt sent it in and confusion followed as Thomas recovered it as it rolled out of the area. Bridge took it on, and he won a penalty as he was chopped to the floor. Bridge dusted himself down and placed it on the spot, and he reacted quickly to what was an excellent save from Smithies. He jumped high to nod the bouncing ball over the line.
Carlisle defended well as the Bluebirds tried to use the flanks, with Webster first to almost every ball, and it wasn't until the 25th minute that anything like a chance was created by the hosts. That came when Murphy used trickery to get into the area as he dropped a shoulder and went past Mellish. His effort, when it came, was neither a cross or a shot and it trundled harmlessly away towards the corner flag.
United responded with a slick move which saw Bridge ride a strong challenge before popping it into the path of Mike Jones. He spread it to McKirdy and he went at his man before unleashing a shot. It had power but it was too close to Smithies.
A half clearance from a mishit free kick from Vaulks found Whyte unmarked at the other end, 24-yards out, but he was quickly closed down as he tried to take on the volley. It flew through bodies and Collin was able to watch it over the bar.
United had a low free kick to deal following a foul on Bacuna by Thomas, but the blue home shirts were on their heels and the Cumbrians were able to clear their lines once again.
Keeper Adam Collin was needed to tip a fierce free kick from Murphy over the bar just before the break, and Mellish had to take care when he saw the resulting corner late as it came through bodies. He did enough to guide it well wide of his own target.
A run from Murphy brought another cross for Cardiff, and Paterson took it on his toe as he stood with his back to goal. Whyte arrived late to try to get a touch but Collin was quickly out to gather.
The Carlisle lead was doubled in time added on for the half when Hallam Hope showed superb poise out on the right wing. His cross took the keeper and defenders out of the equation and Harry McKirdy finished it off with a pinpoint and perfect header which looped tantalisingly into the back of the net.
It was Carlisle who came out of the second half blocks firing when Hayden beat his man to get into a crossing position. A weak clearance fell to Watt but his low effort was always heading wide.
Collin was down low to save from Murphy as he turned inside to shoot. McKirdy was back to help out and Carlisle were able to clear. Vaulks picked it up, and Murphy was on the overlap again to make room for a cross. Paterson flicked that on but Hayden and Webster combined to kept the door closed.
But Cardiff were right back in it on 50 minutes when Ward got the slightest of touches on a cross from Vaulks. Bamba rattled a crisp volley against the bar and Paterson did the rest as he made the rebound his own before stabbing it over the line.
There was suddenly a spring in the Cardiff step and Collin parried again as Ward spun quickly to aim for the bottom corner. Hayden completed the clearance, but the reprieve was short-lived as Paterson pulled away from his marker to cross to the near post. Gavin Whyte met it on the leap and it bulged the net via the inside of the upright.
Murphy was denied a goal from a quickly taken free kick as the offside flag went up, and it took a fantastic two-handed save from Collin to deny the same man when he unleashed a thunderbolt from distance in the next foray.
Carlisle reminded the Championship side that there was still work to do just past the hour when the ball was worked to Thomas, 25-yards out. His grasscutter was picked up by Smithies, but the same player pushed again when Mike Jones sent him on a run. A cut back invited Scougall to shoot, but his attempt was blocked.
United went close again when McKirdy angled his run wide as the away side went on a break. The opening was there but Smithies watched what was a firm drive all the way into his hands.
Webster headed over his own goal under pressure from Paterson as Cardiff kept the crosses coming in, and the touch from the corner from Morrison was comfortable for Collin to deal with.
Another diving Collin save prevented Vaulks from finding the bottom corner as the home side probed, and Morrison was denied by the keeper when a close range header was going full tilt at the target. The big stopper did well to get down and beat it away.
A free kick from Watt for United was flicked on by Mellish but it was a packed box and the ball eventually went wide. And Hallam Hope did everything right moments later when he played a one-two with Mike Jones to make room for a shot. It had power and Smithies was beaten but it swept agonisingly over the angle of post and bar.
Things stayed tight through the closing stages, with Loft dragging a shot wide with almost the last kick of the game, and Carlisle headed north knowing they had more than earned the right to go again for what will be an interesting replay.
Cardiff City - Paterson (50), Whyte (55)
Carlisle United - Bridge (pen 12), McKirdy (45)
Cardiff City - Vaulks (86)
Carlisle United - Hope (40)
Cardiff City - Smithies (gk), Bennett, Morrison (c), Vaulks, Bacuna, Murphy, Paterson, Whyte, Bamba, Ward (Glatzel 78), Coxe (Tomlin 78). Subs - Day (gk), Peltier, Nelson, Sang, Bowen.
Carlisle United - Collin (gk)(c), Hayden, Webster, Mellish, G Jones, McKirdy (Charters 90), M Jones, Watt, Bridge (Scougall 56), Thomas (Loft 80), Hope. Subs - Gray (gk), Iredale, Olomola, Birch.
Referee - Geoff Eltringham
Assistant Referee 1 - Mark Pottage
Assistant Referee 2 - Simon Shaw
Fourth Official - Savvas Yianni
Attendance - 5,282 (719 away fans)