Aaron Webster chose the day he surpassed Brewers legend Nick Goodwin in the all time club appearance stakes to score of the most important goals of his Burton Albion career. The long serving player, on as a second half substitute, header powerfully home from Scott Malone's cross to notch his 90th goal in Albion colours and see the club through to an FA Cup second round tie at home to League 2 pace setters Chesterfield.
It was a fitting reward for an Albion side who were by far the better in attack against an Oxford side that set up with two full backs occupying the wide midfield positions, clearly setting out for a Kassam Stadium replay and given their previous record in games at Burton they would have been expected to get something out of the game but Albion had other ideas and although leaving it late, secured a first ever home victory over the U's.
Paul Peschisolido reverted to a more accustomed 4-4-2 formation for the FA Cup tie against League 2 rivals Oxford United. With Darren Moore serving a one match suspension for accumulated bookings there was a recall for Tony James after his loan at Hereford United expired with Ryan Austin reverting to the right back role. There was also a recall for Jacques Maghoma on the left of midfield with Aaron Webster dropping to the substitutes bench.
As Albion exerted all the early pressure James Collins was close to the opening strike as he connected with Adam Bolder's corner kick only to see his effort frantically scambled to safety. Albion kept up their good start and both Bolder and Russell Penn had efforts on goals before the clock reached the tenth minute.
Tom Craddock went closest for the visitors in the early exchanges but his 12th minute header from a swinging cross lacked either the power or direction to test Adam Legzdins from the edge of the penalty area.
The Brewers were almost in again in the 14th minute as they turned defence into attack. Tony James ball across the back asked a lot of Ryan Austin but he got his foot to the ball and found Harrad with a first time ball and the striker did likewise to find the run of James Collins who was unfortunate to see his first touch allow Steve Kinniburgh to get a foot in and clear the danger.
Albion were even closer to the opening goal in the 23rd minute. A delightful passing move involving John McGrath and Harrd resulted in Adam Bolder finding himself with a clear sight of goal but Anthony Tonkin got a crucial interception in just as Bolder seemed set to roll the ball into the net. The pressure was not over and as Oxford again struggled to clear and although Russ Penn and Bolder had shots blocked the ball eventually bounced up for Collins who could not keep it down and ballooned his effort over the crossbar.
Shaun Harrad forced a full length save from Ryan Clarke as the Oxford defence continued to creak, the striker taking his shot early and seeing the U's stopper dive full length to his right to keep it out.
There was danger for Albion just after the half hour mark when Alfie Potter, on as a substitute for Kinniburgh escaped down the right but his low ball into the box was poor and allowed the Albion defence to easily clear their lines.
The next chance for Albion was not long in coming. Collins deep in his own half launched a diagonal ball towards Maghoma whose first time control on his chest allowed his to charge towards goal and as the Oxford defence backed off the former Spurs youngster let fly with a shot that was not far wide of Clarke's left hand upright.
The McGrath, Harrad and Bolder combination almost did the trick again in the 43rd minute, this time though goalkeeper Clarke was out smartly to smother before the ex-Rams man could get his shot away.
Albion were almost caught out as the first half came to a close, Potter released Craddock and his cross was parried by Adam Legzdins onto Matt Green with the ball bouncing wide.there was still time for another chance for the Brewers in stoppage time as Harrad, poking home from close range was flagged offside although it looked as though James Collins' original shot may have already been going in.
Half time - Burton Albion 0-0 Oxford United
The first half started in much the same vein as the first half and another flowing move really should have had Albion in front. Maghoma surged into the area off a good pass from Malone but instead of shooting tried to find Harrad with a pass and Clarke was able to smother.
Burton continued to ask the questions with both Malone and Collins putting in teasing crosses that had Oxford's defence fully stretched to deal with them.
Oxford threatened to make Burton pay for their profligate finishing although Matt Green picked up a yellow card for a slightly late challenge on Legdzins and the Albion keeper had to be at full stretch to pluck a teasing cross out of the sky at the far post.
Ryan Austin rose to meet a Scott Malone corner at the far post but it merely presented Clarke with a routine save as Albion continued to probe for the elusive opening goal.
Aaron Webster was brought off the bench with twenty minutes to play, his introduction was in an advanced attacking role in place of John McGrath.
The game became very cagey as Oxford began to look more comfortable and a replay began to look the most likely outcome.
The goal that the game desperately needed finally arrived in the 85th minute. Scott Malone moved forward down the left flank again and this time picked out a pinpoint cross for WEBSTER to power home a bullet header past Clarke from six yards.
Oxford had to throw caution to the wind and when Tony James almost got himself in a mess in the box, Tom Craddock lashed a deflected shot wide. From the corner keeper Ryan Clarke raced forwards and as Albion broke away Shaun Harrad spurned the chance to try and find the empty net.
Maghoma was denied by a last moment deflection almost on the goal line from another Malone cross as the game entered stoppage time and Albion camped themselves down by the corner flag to ensure their first ever home victory over the U's and a place in the second round of this season's FA Cup.
GOALS: Albion - Webster (85)