Manchester United stumbled over the line and into the EFL Cup Final as a Paul Pogba goal saw them beat Hull City 3-2 on aggregate after a tepid display on Humberside that saw them lose 2-1 on the night.
Laboured opening as both teams feel their way into the match
Despite Hull manager Marco Silva stating "we always believe in our capacity and want to improve our performance, we believe it [reaching the final] is possible", the hosts set up with a handful of changes as Jarrod Bowen, Shaun Maloney, Oumar Niasse, Josh Tymon and David Meyler all made rare starts in a youthful line-up.
Birthday boy Jose Mourinho's Manchester United eleven was much more predictable, although Anthony Martial missed out with rumours circulating that he could be on his way out of Old Trafford.
A lively away sector of the crowd were in high spirits on the back of United's 2-0 first leg victory, as both sides sparred at a slow tempo in the opening exchanges.
The first half chance of the contest fell to Harry Maguire as Maloney's corner was taken down on the chest of the central defender only to volley his effort wildly over the crossbar. That moment sparked the Tigers into life on the ten minute mark as a rampaging Niasse run saw him sliced down by Phil Jones.
In the absence of Robert Snodgrass it was Sam Clucas who stepped up to take the free-kick on the edge of the box and his powerful effort was punched away by David De Gea.
United were certainly not in any rush to pile players forward and eventually offered their first real flourish at goal when Marcos Rojo stepped out of defence and fired a shot just wide via a deflection from Michael Dawson.
Yet as applause broke out on 25 minutes in support of Ryan Mason, Hull nearly opened the scoring as Dawson was thwarted by a last-ditch Chris Smalling challenge and De Gea had to punch clear Niasse's effort on the rebound.
The Tigers kept the pressure on and earned a free-kick on the edge of the box though Maloney could only whip the set-piece harmlessly over the crossbar.
Huddlestone takes advantage of soft penalty award
The visitors were clearly happy to contain and allow Hull to come onto them and they were duly made to pay on 35 minutes.
Rojo and Maguire clashed as Maloney delivered another set-piece, before referee Jon Moss pointed to the spot and Tom Huddlestone stepped up to slam home the penalty into the bottom corner. All of a sudden a drab affair had stepped up another gear as United found themselves in a contest.
Hull looked to snatch a second and draw level on aggregate before they lost possession in midfield and Zlatan Ibrahimovic broke away.
The Swede was slowed down by Dawson but still managed to place an effort that was heading for the bottom corner, only to be palmed away by David Marshall.
The Tigers continued to venture forward as they spent 45% of the final ten minutes in United's final third, though the visitors were able to hold out and reassess at the break.
Pogba steals a crucial equaliser as United flatter to deceive
As expected, the visitors came out with a more offensive approach and had a solid shout for a penalty of their own. The Hull defence looked to push out from a corner, as Michael Carrick lofted a ball over the top and Smalling was left onside. Huddlestone made contact on the way back in but Jon Moss waved away those protests despite the vocal United appeals.
After a fiery couple of moments between a handful of players, the game settled back into a steady rhythm with neither side wanting to make a mistake.
Eventually United began to offer a spell of pressure and when Ibrahimovic released Marcus Rashford into the box the alarm bells were ringing for Hull. Huddlestone stuck out a leg to halt his momentum but the ball fell to Paul Pogba who was able to prod home a vital goal for United as they restored their cushion on aggregate.
Tigers continue to fight but just fall short
That goal undoubtedly dampened Hull spirits for several minutes as United finally began to appear more threatening. Silky footwork from Ibrahimovic was followed by a powerful effort that was bravely blocked by Dawson.
The resulting corner from Jesse Lingard, whose delivery had been poor up until that point, found Rojo unmarked and he nodded against the crossbar.
Hull did look to respond on the counter-attack as substitutes Abel Hernandez and Lazar Markovic combined before the Liverpool loanee fired wildly over when he should have hit the target.
Hernandez then had a chance of his own when Niasse's cut back found the Urugayan, only for his shot to be deflected wide. Evandro whipped in the resulting corner that was headed against the crossbar by Niasse and then nodded wide by Hernandez on the rebound as the Tigers looked to claw their way back into the contest.
The Tigers gave themselves a glimmer of hope as Huddlestone floated a ball to David Meyler and he duly cushioned the ball across to Niasse to convert a second of the game for Hull.
The hosts continued to push forward but could not threaten the goal again as United held out to earn a Wembley date with Southampton at the end of February.