Ronan Hale’s goal just before half-time clinched a 1-1 draw away to AGF Aarhus and seal progress to the third qualifying round of the Europa Conference League.
Leading 2-1 from the first leg the Invermen produced a battling display at Ceres Park to claim a major upset and booked a two-legged tie against Paços de Ferreira, of Portugal.
The first opportunity arrived for the home side after just five minutes. Albert Gronbaek lined up a fierce free-kick 25 yards from goal which goalkeeper Rohan Ferguson did well to punch to safety.
After this, Larne began to grow into the game, with their midfield three of Mark Randall, John Herron and Lee Lynch starting to see more of the ball.
In was Lynch who had Larne’s best opportunity of the early exchanges. Davy McDaid did well to lead a breakaway from an AGF corner and he slipped the ball to his right to the former Sligo Rovers midfielder. After taking a touch inside the area, Lynch’s shot lacked the power to beat Jesper Hansen.
The home side went close themselves five minutes later, as Alexander Munksgaard’s cross from the right found Oliver Lund’s at the back post, but the midfielder headed just wide.
The game then exploded into life on 26 minutes. AGF midfielder playmaker Patrick Olsen went down inside the box and received a yellow card for his troubles.
This led to a flare up, with Icelandic winger Jon Dagur Thorsteinsson picking up a second yellow card after an altercation with Dean Jarvis.
Despite being a man short, the best chance of the night up until that point fell the way of he home side. Polish striker Dawid Kurminowski got behind the Larne defence, but Rohan Ferguson was quickly off his line to make a smart save, with skipper Jeff Hughes mopping up the danger.
Just as it looked like the two sides would go into the break on level terms, Larne shocked their Danish hosts with the opening goal on 45 minutes.
The Invermen intercepted the ball deep into the Aarhus half with Mark Randall playing a one-two with Davy McDaid. The former Arsenal midfielder had the presence of mind to slip Ronan Hale – only on the pitch as a substitute – and the striker fired past Hansen from 15 yards out.
The home side came out after the break knowing they now required two goals to take the tie to extra-time.
In a bid to do just they introduced Anthony D’Alberto – a recent signing from Portuguese side Moreiense.
However, it was another substitute who was to inadvertently have an impact.
Larne defender Josh Robinson was only on the park for a minute when the referee adjudged him to have handled inside the area on 76 minutes.
Patrick Olsen stepped up to level the score on the night, sending Rohan Ferguson the wrong way from the resulting penalty.
The home side’s tails were clearly up after this, with Albert Gronbaek having two free-kicks bravely blocked in the space of as many minutes.
Despite a late onslaught from the home, which including sending forward goalkeeper Hansen forward, Larne bravely held on for the draw which booked next week’s trip to Porto.
AGF Aarhus: Hansen, Munksgaard (’61 D’Alberto), Tingager (’87 Kristensen), Bisseck, Lund (’69 Gerbach), Poulsen, Olsen, Links, Thorsteinsson, Kurminowski (’69 Ammitzboll), Gronbaek
Unused subs: Gadegaard, Hausner, Juelsgard , Duncan, Tengstedt, Jevtovic
Larne: Ferguson, Cosgrove (’70 Robinson), Watson, Bolger, Hughes, Jarvis, Sule (’86 Mitchell), Herron, Randall (’86 Kelly), Lynch (’41 Hale), McDaid
Unused subs: Argyrides, Scott, Lusty
Referee: Volen Chinkov (Bulgaria)