BRETT Pitman scored twice as Cherries comfortably defeated Burton Albion tonight to book a glamorous – and lucrative – showdown with Premier League giants Liverpool.
The Anfield outfit will visit Dean Court for a live televised fourth round clash on January 25 with Cherries set to profit from a £144,000 broadcast fee and gate receipts from what is guaranteed to be a capacity crowd.
Cherries earned the chance to face the seven-time FA Cup winners – and pocketed £67,500 prize money in the process – by producing a dominant display to fend off the challenge of Burton in their rearranged tie in Dorset.
The Cherries faithful had donated generously to fund the travel costs of the away supporters but the home team were not in such charitable mood as they bossed proceedings for virtually the entire match.
Cherries got off to a dream start when Matt Ritchie crossed for the recalled Pitman to open the scoring with just five minutes on the clock.
Jimmy Phillips stunned the hosts when his heavily-deflected shot wrong-footed Ryan Allsop to restore parity against the run of play.
Cherries had been well on top but impressive visiting keeper Dean Lyness saved Burton on numerous occasions, denying Tokelo Rantie and Pitman with particularly excellent saves.
But after he had again showed his quality to foil Charlie Daniels, Lyness had no answer when the left-back turned provider for captain Tommy Elphick to convert just before half-time.
The Brewers enjoyed slightly more possession in the second half but, in truth, they never seriously threatened before Cherries confirmed their route to the next round in the closing stages.
Substitute Ryan Fraser profited from a sublime Pitman pass to hit the net before Pitman completed the scoring from the penalty spot after Harry Arter had been felled.
Cherries made five changes as boss Howe opted to rotate his squad following the 3-0 defeat at Wigan on Saturday.
One alteration was enforced with keeper Allsop replacing the ineligible Lee Camp. Fit-again Steve Cook was restored to central defence and winger Marc Pugh was promoted from the bench alongside attacking duo Rantie and Pitman, with Elliott Ward, Fraser, Andrew Surman and Lewis Grabban all named among the substitutes.
Burton arrived in Dorset fresh from forcing their way firmly into the League Two promotion mix on the back of an 11-match unbeaten run.
But the Brewers immediately found themselves on the back foot as their defence was exposed by the direct running and pace of Rantie during the early exchanges.
After the South African striker had twice got to the byline to provide low cutbacks, it proved third time lucky when he again found space in behind in the fifth minute.
His low pass found the onrushing Ritchie and although the wide man might have been fortunate to benefit from a ricochet, there was nothing lucky about his pinpoint cross which left Pitman the routine task of sliding in to convert at the far post.
The hosts continued to dictate but they were given a warning when Billy Kee sent Adam Buxton scampering clear, only for Allsop to come to the rescue with an excellent block.
As rain continued to pour from the Dorset skies, the pitch became increasingly slick with Cherries, whose possession stats rocketed to 82 per cent at one stage, trying to profit by moving the ball swiftly.
From one such move, a delightful Pitman backheel released the charging Daniels but while his cross was accurate, Rantie’s right-foot finish was wayward.
There was nothing wrong with Rantie’s effort on 27 minutes when the frontman darted in from the left to unleash a ferocious shot which Brewers keeper Lyness solidly parried.
Rantie was again involved as Cherries missed a golden opportunity to double their lead. His cross found Pugh and when the Lancastrian’s shot was blocked, Ritchie drilled the loose ball into the ground and over.
And Cherries were made to pay for failing to take their chances when Burton silenced Dean Court with an equaliser. Allsop was left helpless when Phillips’s 20-yard strike took a huge deflection on its way into the net.
Lyness was beginning to prove a problem for Cherries as he produced an exceptional save to deny Pitman at point-blank range before showing excellent handling to gather efforts from Arter and Rantie as Cherries attempted to regain their advantage.
The Brewers stopper again saved his side by plunging to his right to somehow repel a left-foot drive from the lively Daniels. But with the hosts piling on the pressure, Lyness had no answer when Daniels delivered a low cross for skipper Elphick, one of a number of Liverpool supporters in the Cherries ranks, to slot home his first goal of the season just before the interval.
Cherries came within inches of extending their lead when Pugh side-footed against the post following a surging run and precision cross from a Simon Francis raid down the right.
Rantie then launched a counter attack and his through ball split the Burton defence to find Pitman, only for Lyness to dive to his left and parry one-handed, a feat he repeated when Pugh took aim from a narrow angle.
As the weather deteriorated, the Brewers enjoyed their best spell of the match midway through the second half as they sought a route back into the contest.
The visitors enjoyed plenty of possession although examples of incisive attacking play proved few and far between as Cherries comfortably dealt with the Brewers’ best efforts.
And after remaining solid at the back, Cherries showed their cutting edge at the other end to finally break Burton’s resistance.
Chasing a leveller, they were caught on the break when substitute Lewis Grabban found Pitman. The mercurial forward produced a beautiful pass to find Fraser, who took a touch, composed himself and sent a delightful dink over the onrushing Lyness.
Pitman then got his second when he coolly thumped home from the spot after Arter had been felled by Burton centre-half Ian Sharps.
There was still time for Lyness to emerge with his head held high as he brilliantly tipped a Grabban shot on to the woodwork.
But the night belonged to Cherries as supporters quickly turned their attentions to watching their heroes against the likes of Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez in what promises to be a memorable occasion.
Match facts and Daily Echo merit marks
Cherries: (4-4-2) Allsop 6.5; Francis 7.5, Elphick 7.5, Cook 7.5, Daniels 8; Ritchie 7 (Fraser, 55), O’Kane 7.5, Arter 6, Pugh 7 (Surman, 72); Pitman 8*, Rantie 7.5 (Grabban, 83).
Unused subs: Ward, Harte, McQuoid, Jalal (g/k).
Brewers: (4-4-1-1) Lyness; Edwards, Diamond, Sharps, McCrory; Buxton (MacDonald, 63), Bell (Hussey, 72), Palmer, Phillips; McGurk; Kee (Knowles, 80).
Unused subs: Holness, Weir, Harness, Seigrist (g/k).
Referee: Iain Williamson (Berkshire)
Attendance: 10,343 (including 357 away supporters)
Star man - Brett Pitman
Restored to the starting line-up, Pitman took his chance to shine.
His early finish from Matt Ritchie’s cross was clinical and just what Cherries needed to hit Burton’s confidence.
Pitman was a lively contributor and his fine pass to set up Ryan Fraser was nothing short of exceptional.
The master penalty taker then completed his eye-catching performance by lashing home from 12 yards.
Charlie Daniels ran Pitman close for the star man honours with an energetic and exciting display on the left.