Championship side Cardiff City were at Brunton Park for the first time since October 2000 as they headed north for the Emirates FA Cup third-round replay with the Blues.
The sides had battled out a 2-2 draw at the Cardiff City stadium 10 days ago and were head-to-head again for the right to take the next step in the competition.
And it was an absolute thriller witnessed by two sets of buoyant fans with Carlisle matching their illustrious opponents blow for blow under the Brunton Park lights.
Chris Beech made two changes from Saturday's game against Plymouth with Jack Iredale and Stefan Scougall in for Aaron Hayden and Jack Bridge.
It was another windy night in Cumbria, and the hosts had the gusts at their backs as they kicked towards the Waterworks End in the first half.
A huge ball forward for United caused Flint real problems as it swirled his way as he backtracked quickly to try to cope with it. His clearing header was dangerous as it spun free, but it was just too far in front of Hope and the visitors survived the scare.
There was action at the other end when Whyte suddenly found himself in acres of space. It looked like he had just Collin to beat but Iredale was back to make a timely goal-saving challenge.
The resulting corner bounced awkwardly but Flint got enough on it to bring Ward into play. His firm touch was blocked and he had his head in his hands as it spun wide from the deflection.
Another fierce set piece delivery was met on the jump by Bamba and he was also left to wonder how his header had flashed wide instead of bulging the net.
Cardiff were made to pay for their misses when United broke in numbers with Hope on the overlap. He chased the ball down and got there in the nick of time to cut it back into the mix, just before it crossed the line for a goal kick. Nathan Thomas made no mistake as he bagged his fifth of the season in some amount of style with a rasping drive from the edge of the box.
A volley from Will Vaulks went well wide as Cardiff looked to respond, but it was the Cumbrians who pressed again when Hope beat the offside trap. He was pushed away from goal and his cross went behind off the first defender, but he was the man on the spot again when the dipper of a delivery from Watt was only half cleared. The striker connected sweetly but a touch from Ralls took it over the target.
Midfielder Mike Jones was next to have a go when he sent a speculative effort through bodies in what was a good spell for the blue shirts. Smithies was concerned but he watched it drift away from his post.
Carlisle looked dangerous again when Thomas went on a 70-yard run, turning defence into attack. He had Hope and McKirdy matching him step for step but Smithies was out quickly to take the steady through ball into his hands.
The away side were back on terms from nowhere on 18 minutes when a long throw was flicked on by Aden Flint at the front stick. Collin had no chance to react as it whipped into the bottom corner.
It was a pulsating atmosphere and United picked themselves up to go again with another incisive attack. Thomas pulled away from his marker to take a touch but his guided shot hit Richards before curling away to safety.
A Watt corner caught in the wind midway through the half and Webster and Hope were involved in a scramble as Smithies dived forward to provide a shield. The keeper eventually stood up with the ball in his hands.
A header from Paterson was a whisker away at the other end when he met the product of some good work by Murphy, and the lively Hallam Hope almost made a chance for himself when he robbed possession tight by the corner flag as the action ebbed and flowed. He aimed to angle into the box but Richards stuck a toe out to make the challenge.
Collin had to spread himself to make a save just after the half hour when Flint shot instinctively having taken a difficult ball on his chest. It was low and hard but a boot from the keeper was enough to turn it away.
The corner delivery was allowed to bounce and Iredale made a goal line clearance as Flint once again made it his own. Collin was there and ready, but the left back was taking no chances.
The Carlisle keeper dived low to deal with a 20-yarder from Ward as Cardiff got forward again with a neat pass from Coxe. The parry was put behind by Mellish as Paterson lurked.
United gave as good as they got in what was an entertaing encounter and a moment of magic from Harry McKirdy deserved a goal on 37 minutes when he stopped the ball, looked up and then unleashed a wonderful thunderbolt. Smithies was well beaten, but it somehow stayed out as it crashed down off the angle of post and bar, bounced off the line and bobbled its way out of the box.
Smithies had to take care once more as Thomas sent a 36-yard free kick at the top corner. Wind-assisted it needed calm hands from the stopper.
Cardiff took the lead for the first time in the tie on the stroke of half time when a half cleared set piece fell in front of Josh Murphy. He kept the controlled 19-yard volley on target and it squeezed its way into the net as it ripped through bodies to beat the unsighted keeper.
United had a long throw from Vaulks to defend at the start of the second half and Collin did well to punch it behind for a corner. But the reprieve was short-lived as Ralls looped his delivery at the back post. Flint pulled off his man and he notched his second of the night with a close-range toe poke.
Webster almost pulled Carlisle back into it at the other end when he got on the end of a Watt corner. Smithies got the slightest of fingertip touches to help the header over the bar.
The lifeline was found for the hosts when Thomas reacted first as he had an initial shot blocked as he twisted and turned inside the box. His cross on the spin found McKirdy unmarked and he made double figures for goals for the season with a volley which bounced off the surface and over the dive from the keeper.
Cardiff restored the two-goal cushion when Danny Ward controlled a high ball over the top with his back to goal. His second touch took him past his man and he was able to drill his finish past Collin and into the far corner.
A string of deliveries for the hosts kept the visiting defence on its toes and Webster was close again as he threw himself at a deep one from Thomas. The ball went high and Cardiff were able to clear their lines.
Trickery from Murphy took him beyond Mellish as the away side attacked, and Whyte asked for the pass when he overlapped. Webster lunged across to make a block as the trigger was pulled.
United weren't about to lie down and they were right back in it yet again when Hope slipped a quickly taken free kick to McKirdy. The winger drew Smithies towards him before crunching a beauty of a finish into the top corner from a very tight angle.
A measured pass from Watt sparked another home attack as he sent McKirdy on another run. The cross had Loft interested but Smithies dropped low to gather it up without a moment to spare.
Paterson dragged a shot from distance wide through what was a quieter spell of the game, and Hope scooped one over after he'd done the hard work when he received a pass from Watt before beating his man.
McKirdy was an inch away from a hat-trick when he swung his boot through a volley from 20-yards late in the day, and Olomola almost added the touch it needed when he did his best to get there.
Carlisle pressed through the closing stages, and Watt went for glory with a minute left on the clock when a clearance came his way. It had power, and direction, but it rose just too high.
The home fans were in fantastic voice and they roared their players on through time added on, and the reward nearly came when Thomas put a wonderful cross into the area. Smithies missed it, but it struck a defender on the line and the luck went the way of the Bluebirds as the loose ball found its way into the hands of the keeper as he lay flat on the floor.
Collin had to dive one-handed to save from Ralls, and Cardiff hung on to book their place in the fourth round despite what was a superb effort from the Cumbrians - players and fans alike.
Carlisle United - Thomas (7), McKirdy (51, 64)
Cardiff City - Flint (18, 47) Murphy (45), Ward (57)
Carlisle United - McKirdy (24)
Cardiff City - Murphy (90)
Carlisle United - Collin (gk)(c), G Jones, Webster, Mellish (Olomola 81), Iredale, Scougall (Loft 67), Watt, M Jones (Charters 87), Thomas, Hope, McKirdy. Subs - Gray (gk), Bridge, Knight-Percival, Sagaf.
Cardiff City - Smithies (gk), Flint, Vaulks, Ralls, Murphy, Paterson, Whyte (Pack 83), Richards, Bamba (c), Ward, Coxe (Bennett 70). Subs - Day (gk), Glatzel, Nelson, Bogle, Hoilett.
Referee - Darren Handley
Assistant Referee 1 - Shaun Hudson
Assistant Referee 2 - Graeme Fyvie
Fourth Official - Scott Oldham
Attendance - 4,381 (348 away fans)