Aston Villa will play in their first FA Cup Final for 15 years after coming from behind to beat Liverpool 2-1 at Wembley Stadium.
On a crisp spring afternoon in north-west London seven-time winners Liverpool never truly found their feet but took the lead through Philippe Coutinho on the half-hour mark.
However, Villa, who were positive and confident throughout, hit back.
Aston Villa 2-1 Liverpool
The FA Cup semi-final
3pm, Sunday 19 April
Wembley Stadium connected by EE
First through Christian Benteke and then Fabian Delph – as Tim Sherwood’s side secured a famous victory under the arch.
Liverpool’s stuttering performance may have been caused an enforced change of style. A thigh injury sustained by Lucas Leiva late in the week meant Brendan Rodgers had to reshuffle his starting line-up.
The Liverpool manager opted for an unorthodox six-man midfield. He named three centre forwards on the bench and fielded Gerrard and Coutinho in advanced roles in front of a deeper midfield four.
And Aston Villa settled into the contest first, as Liverpool struggled to find rhythm in their passing and adjust to the new system.
Charles N’Zogbia forced Simon Mignolet into the first save of the game as his goalbound effort from the edge of the box was acrobatically tipped over by the Belgian keeper.
Match Highlights: Aston Villa 2-1 Liverpool
Moments later Villa found themselves two versus one as N’Zogbia and Benteke bore down on Liverpool’s goal, but a misplaced pass from the French forward meant the move broke down.
Without creating a clear-cut chance Villa were in control and Shay Given remained untroubled.
That was until an injury to Nathan Baker swung the pendulum back into the Reds’ favour. They began to press for the first time in the game and four minutes later they were ahead.
Baker’s replacement – Jores Okore – failed to clear after intercepting well and scuffed a clearance to Delph who could not control.
Coutinho pounced and drove into the box and, with the aid of a deflection off Okore, fired Liverpool into the lead with a cool finish.
Reds boss Rodgers, who did not sit down for the entirety of the first half, turned to the Liverpool fans behind the dugout and gave his now customary fist-pump.
On the opposing bench Sherwood sprung into life. He ordered his players to keep their heads up and encouraged them to keep going the way they had.
It was advice well heeded as six minutes later in-form Benteke got them the goal their first-half display deserved.
After a fine one-two between Jack Grealish and Delph, the England international broke into the box and picked out Benteke with an inch-perfect cut-back.
With the finish of a man brimming with confidence, he opened his body out and placed a right-foot shot across Mignolet and into the bottom corner. It was his ninth goal in seven games.
The Belgium international scored the first goal in Aston Villa’s FA Cup run – in the 1-0 win against Blackpool in January – and in the second half he was determined to ensure it would not his last of the season in the famous competition.
The sun shone down on Wembley for the first time and the Villans began the second half as they had the first – confident and on the front foot.
And they were soon ahead after the trio of Grealish, Benteke and Delph combined again to score a sublime team goal.
The outstanding Grealish latched on to Benteke’s backheel and calmly played the ball into Delph’s pass.
In front of the end where the Villa fans were situated, the England man cut back and fired a right-foot shot past Mignolet to send the Villa fans into ecstasy.
Not usually one to hide his emotions, the reaction was a lot more subdued from Villa boss Sherwood. After a brief fist pump he was bellowing instructions to players to focus.
But it would not be a question of ‘what we have we hold’ for Villa as they continued to probe for a third.
Benteke and Cleverley both went close but could not find the goal that would have allowed Sherwood’s men a more comfortable finale.
Mario Balotelli – a half-time substitute for Liverpool – was on at the other end as Rodgers abandoned his original formation.
However, he failed to make the impact his manager – and the thousands of Liverpool fans inside Wembley – so desperately craved.
‘Villa till I die’ was the chant of choice as the fans from the second city cheered their heroes home.
At the other end Gerrard went close with a header that was cleared off the line.
But it was not to be for the Liverpool man and his Wembley career was brought to an end with the sharp shrill of Michael Oliver’s whistle – and it will be Villa who return to take on Arsenal in the May showpiece.
Aston Villa (4-3-3): 31 Shay Given; 7 Leandro Bacuna, 2 Nathan Baker, 4 Ron Vlaar, 3 Kieran Richardson; 15 Ashley Westwood, 16 Fabian Delph (C), 8 Tom Cleverley; 40 Jack Grealish, 20 Christian Benteke, 28 Charles N’Zogbia.
Substitutes: 5 Jores Okore for Baker 26; 9 Scott Sinclair for N’Zogbia 75; 12 Joe Cole for Grealish 83.
Substitutes not used: 1 Brad Guzan (GK), 10 Andres Weimann, , 34 Matthew Lowton, 25 Carles Gil.
Goals: Benteke 36, Delph 54.
Manager: Tim Sherwood
Liverpool (3-4-2-1): 22 Simon Mignolet; 23 Emre Can, 37 Martin Skrtel, 6 Dejan Lovren; 18 Alberto Moreno; 24 Joe Allen, 14 Jordan Henderson, 50 Lazar Markovic; 8 Steven Gerrard (C)10 Philippe Coutinho; 31 Raheem Sterling.
Substitutes: 45 Mario Balotelli for Markovic HT; 2 Glen Johnson for Allen 78; 9 Rickie Lambert for Moreno 90.
Substitutes not used: 1 Brad Jones (GK), 4 Kolo Toure, 19 Javier Manquillo, 29 Fabio Borini.
Goals: Coutinho 30
Manager: Brendan Rodgers
Referee: Michael Oliver
Attendance: 85, 416