OXFORD United's FA Cup hopes came to an end as they let a lead slip to lose their second round replay against Tranmere Rovers at a sodden Prenton Park.

Alfie Potter crowned a dominant opening half hour with a superb headed goal, but the visitors quickly levelled through Kayode Odejayi.

United regained the upper hand in the second half, but all too often failed to hit the target with half-chances.

And they were stung 15 minutes from time when Max Power buried a shot to put Tranmere in front and on course with a home tie against Swansea City.

There was still time for United to take the tie to extra time, but their best chance came in the final minute of stoppage time, when Michael Collins was denied.

Injury and unavailability restricted head coach Michael Appleton's selection options.

Of his three changes from Saturday's 2-1 win over Bury, two were enforced with Tyrone Barnett, scorer of both United's goals in the original tie, leaving the club after his loan expired and Wes Burns cup-tied.

Danny Hylton moved into Barnett's role leading the line, flanked by Potter and Callum O'Dowda, promoted from the bench.

The final change saw Josh Ruffels come in for Andy Whing, as Appleton named just six substitutes.

The reshuffled side settled immediately in the teeming Merseyside rain, stringing no fewer than 50 passes together in an extraordinary move in the opening couple of minutes.

It came to nothing, but the home fans quickly became irritated as their side looked second best.

United's threat grew, with Hylton popping up all over the place to cause problems.

The top scorer had the first real sight of goal midway through the half when a Michael Collins corner fell at the back post, but he could only prod into the side netting.

A minute later Rovers goalkeeper Owen Fon Williams was forced into an excellent save to deny Johnny Mullins on the volley from eight yards after a Danny Rose cross was helped on.

The goal finally arrived just before the half hour mark.

Hylton got in down the right and dug out a cross which was expertly glanced into the far corner by Potter.

It was a terrific finish and the winger was quickly involved again as a Rose clearance set up a two-on-one attack, but Potter was unable to switch play to Michael Collins and the danger vanished.

Tranmere were hanging on, until they grabbed an equaliser nine minutes before the break.

Tareiq Holmes-Dennis was unable to cut out a move down the home side's right flank, allowing Cole Stockton into space.

Both United centre backs were caught out of position and when the cross came in goalkeeper Ryan Clarke was unable to prevent the ball reaching Odejayi. The big striker could not miss from a yard out.

It gave Rovers a parity they scarely merited at the break, but they were again on the back foot when the game restarted.

United's ability to thread together passing moves was admirable considering the conditions grew worse as the rain fell steadily.

They got into a host of promising positions, but again Fon Williams had relatively little to do.

Hylton, often the only yellow shirt in the box, had the lion's share of chances, although none were clear-cut.

Riley was the main provided and from his crosses United's No 10 headed wide and shot over in quick succession.

As the minutes ticked by United looked the ones trying to win the game, but in pushing for a breakthrough they were stung on the break.

Power was found in space on the left and when he broke into the box United's defenders scrambled to protect a cross, but instead he threaded a shot into the far corner of the net.

It left United with 15 minutes to find an equaliser which would force extra time.

Ruffels quickly had a shot deflected over for a corner and the midfielder caught another effort sweetly as the game edged towards the 90th minute, but it was straight at Fon Williams.

The U's had beaten Bury on Saturday with a late goal, but despite giving Tranmere some nervous moments in the four minutes of stoppage time they were unable to conjure any late drama.

It means they will host Cheltenham Town in Sky Bet League Two on January 3, rather than Swansea in the FA Cup.

Tranmere Rov (3-5-2): Fon Williams, Donacien, Ihiekwe, Holness, Holmes (Jahraldo-Martin 66), Power, Jennings, Rowe (Fenelon 66), Ridehalgh, Odejayi, Stockton (Laird 75).

Unused subs: Brezovan, Donnelly, Woodards, Madjo.

Booked: Power, Ihiekwe.

Oxford Utd (4-2-3-1): Clarke, Riley, Mullins, Wright, Holmes-Dennis, Ruffels, Rose, Potter, Collins, O'Dowda, Hylton.

Subs used: Unused subs: Crocombe, Meades, Whing, Ashby, Howard, Humphreys.

Booked: Collins, Wright, Hylton.

Attendance: 3,296 (196 visitors).

Referee: Mick Russell (Hertfordshire).