The city of Cardiff launched an electrifying FA Cup replay against League Two Carlisle to establish a fourth round tie in Reading.
Carlisle scored with a 20-yard shot from Nathan Thomas before Aden Flint headed into Will Vaulks’ long shot to equalize.
Josh Murphy led Cardiff and Flint got his second from close range.
McKirdy converted Thomas’s cross to Carlisle, but Danny Ward’s fine turn and finish restored Cardiff’s lead to two goals and held on, despite McKirdy scoring a spectacular second.
Carlisle had risen 2-0 in the opening game before two second-half goals from the championship team brought him to a replay and the two teams produced a fantastic game in Brunton Park.
The hosts went on after just seven minutes when Thomas scored after Hallam Hope had done well to keep the ball in play. However, the lead lasted only 11 minutes, while Flint’s header scored 1-1 and Carlisle had a chance to take the lead again, but McKirdy’s powerful effort hit the wood.
Cardiff, 12th in the championship, went on for the first time through Murphy’s volley in the first half and the game seemed over when Flint scored his second start after the restart.
But McKirdy withdrew from Thomas’s crossbar, although Ward led Cardiff 4-2 ahead in the 57th minute.
However, a great shot from McKirdy in the 64th minute gave him his second goal, Carlisle their third and his team 26 minutes plus injury time to find a goal that would have led to extra time.
Carlisle, 21st in League Two, had been the team with the lowest score remaining in the tournament, but have failed to find a fourth goal and Cardiff will now play Reading on Saturday 25 January.
It means Northampton Town, who take on Derby at home in the fourth round, raises £ 250,000 more to be the last remaining League Two team left in the FA Cup.
‘It may have been 10-6’
Cardiff manager Neil Harris: “In the end it could have been 10-6 for us. Both teams blocked him and for us it was a test of character.
“It was a real cup game, that’s what the FA Cup is about. A great show.
“I wish it was more comfortable, but tonight it’s about celebrating a victory.”
Boss Carlisle Chris Beech: “I’m happy with the efforts made by the players. They have been honest and have worked hard. I told them that’s what I’m looking for.
“I heard that we played better in the conditions and scored five goals in two games against a team that was in the Premier League not long ago.
“Maybe we should play in Cardiff every week if we can perform that way.”