Liverpool defeated Cardiff City 3-2 on penalties, after a 2-2 post-extra time score, to lift their eighth Carling Cup title and end a six-year trophy drought in the process.
Joe Mason had given a surprise lead to a brave Cardiff side in the 19th minute, applying severe pressure on the Reds to respond.
While the Welsh side went into half-time with their slender lead intact, the Premier League outfit responded at the hour-mark, when Martin Skrtel slid home from close range to level the scoring.
Neither team was able to break the deadlock when the full-time whistle was blown, sending the match to extra time.
At the beginning of the second period of extra time, it was Kenny Dalglish’s Merseysiders who struck first as Dirk Kuyt brilliantly got at the end of his own rebound to slide home the go-ahead goal.
It seemed that the Dutchman had just ended Cardiff’s hopes – as well as his own club’s trophy drought – but there was another twist in the tale two minutes from the end of extra time.
After Kuyt heroically succeeded in a goal-line clearance from a set-piece, Cardiff were not to be denied from the resulting corner as Ben Turner slid past Pepe Reina from point-blank range.
There were celebrations aplenty at Cardiff’s end of the stadium, even though the penalty shoot-out that commenced moments later was to be played at Liverpool’s end following Steven Gerrard’s win in the toss.
The Reds skipper, however, was not lucky enough to convert his well-struck penalty, which was punched away by youngster Tom Heaton in the Bluebirds’ goal.
Kenny Miller then missed Cardiff’s opening penalty, hitting the post to keep the Reds level.
Charlie Adam took the second penalty kick for Liverpool, smashing his shot in the stands to the shocking disappointment of Liverpool faithful around Wembley.
Don Cowie scored to give Cardiff the lead but Kuyt immediately tied it up with a clinical spot-kick. Rudy Gestede, like Miller, also hit the post, leaving the shoot-out wide open all over again.
Stewart Downing calmly stepped up to give Liverpool the lead, only for Cardiff captain Peter Whittingham to equalize.
Glen Johnson was entrusted with the responsibility of Liverpool’s critical fifth kick, and it proved to be decisive as he continued a strong season with a successful penalty.
Another Gerrard – Steven’s cousin Anthony – then ended Cardiff’s memorable day on a sour note, hitting his spot-kick wide off the goal to the delight of Reina.
In fact, Anthony’s miss was to the delight of thousands of Reds fans in attendance – and many others around the world – who not only celebrated winning Carling Cup 2012 at the expense of Cardiff, but also writing a chapter that promises to lead them to an exciting new beginning after years of disappointment.