JAMES Henry’s late strike sent Oxford United into the Emirates FA Cup third round and earned Karl Robinson’s side a place in the record books.

A replay looked on the cards as the visitors’ dominant spells failed to yield a goal, but as has so often been the case, Henry popped up with an important goal.

His tenth of the season came six minutes from time, arriving late in the box to turn in Chris Cadden’s cross.

It was a lead United richly deserved, but Walsall deserved credit for their dogged display and the Sky Bet League Two side will reflect on a couple of big chances which they did not take.

But the hard-earned victory will have been sweet for the visitors, who extended a terrific unbeaten run to 16 games – a club record in a single Football League season.

United’s team bus was held up in traffic on the way to the ground and they had a few sloppy moments early on as Walsall snapped into tackles.

Rory Gaffney found the net but well after the offside flag had gone up as the home side started brightly.

But with Rob Dickie showing some classy touches their early efforts were blunted and steadily the visitors, unchanged from the 4-0 win at Southend United a week earlier, gained control.

They had a lot of joy down the right flank, where time and again United got in behind left back Callum Cockerill-Mollett.

On 20 minutes they broke to find Mark Sykes in that position, where his shot was deflected into the side netting.

Anthony Forde’s resulting corner to the back post reached Tariqe Fosu to have a shot blocked.

Walsall responded with arguably the clearest chance of the half. An Alfie Bates corner was flicked on and fell in the six-yard box to Gaffney, whose backheel was well blocked by Josh Ruffels on his 200th start for the club.

Simon Eastwood’s goal was not troubled again before half-time, as the visitors found their rhythm.

Another move down the right yielded a corner, which again came for Fosu. The U’s winger had time to get a shot away but did not get a clean connection on a shot which Liam Roberts spilled to a teammate.

The Saddlers goalkeeper made a much better fist of it on 33 minutes. A sweeping move reached Fosu, who got hold of his shot this time from 20 yards, which Roberts palmed behind for a corner.

United kept probing and for a moment it looked like it had paid off in the final minute of the half.

There was no surprise the supply route came down the right, this time with Henry getting into the box. He twisted and turned before sending in a cross which was converted by Matty Taylor, but the flag quickly went up.

It took two sensational pieces of defending to deny United a goal a minute into the second half. Ruffels looked certain to score when he powerfully met Henry’s cross, but Roberts parried the header and James Clarke was on the scene first to acrobatically clear the loose ball.

Walsall may have been on the back foot, but the home side showed they were still firmly in the game six minutes later. Josh Gordon should have scored from Gaffney’s cross, but unmarked he planted his header wide from close range.

United cranked up the pressure around the hour mark, roared on by the travelling fans behind the goal.

But the visitors could not find a killer touch from a series of set pieces, as Roberts made just the one save when Henry’s cross was flicked on by Sykes and hit Taylor.

Walsall were still well in the game and threatened to nick the game when substitute Elijah Adebayo got away late on, but a combination of Dickie and John Mousinho snuffed out the danger.

Just as a replay began to loom, the visitors forced a breakthrough six minutes from time.

Taylor drifted wide and pulled the ball back for Cadden, whose inviting cross was perfect to meet Henry’s run.

United still had some defending to do, but they held firm to book a place in Monday’s third round draw.

Walsall (4-4-2): Roberts, Facey, Clarke, Sadler, Cockerill-Mollett, Holden, Bates (Guthrie 55), Kinsella, Gordon, Lavery (Adebayo 75), Gaffney (Scarr 55).

Unused subs: Rose, Norman, McDonald, Liddle.

Booked: Cockerill-Mollett, Kinsella.

Oxford Utd (4-3-3): Eastwood, Cadden, Dickie, Mousinho, Ruffels, Gorrin, Henry, Forde (Moore 90), Sykes (Hall 66), Taylor (Mackie 87), Fosu.

Unused subs: Stevens, Long, Jones, Agyei.

Booked: Dickie, Hall.

Referee: Leigh Doughty.

Attendance: 3,224 (1,375 visitors).