Francois Zoko scored twice as Boro advanced into the second round of the FA Cup with Budweiser with a 2-1 win over Portsmouth this afternoon.
Two first half goals from the striker saw Boro looking comfortable and when Pompey went down to 10 men it seemed a formality. But a David Connolly goal with 20 minutes remaining led to a nervy finish and Boro had to show all their defensive resolve to secure the win and passage into tomorrow's draw.
Graham Westley made two changes to the side which lost narrowly at Wolves last weekend, with Lucas Akins returning from suspension and Bruno Andrade given his first start. Greg Tansey dropped to the bench and Peter Hartley missed out through illness, with Luke Freeman moving to left-back.
Portsmouth came out of the blocks the quickest and nearly had the perfect start when Jed Wallace struck the post within a minute with a low, angled effort.
Not long afterwards a good move started by Gavin Mahon saw a cross flash right across Boro's six yard line but there was no Pompey player there to finish.
However it was Boro who took the lead with their first real attack on eight minutes. Bruno Andrade teased his full-back on the right before whipping a cross into the box. Morais, Akins and Zoko all had attempts in the ensuing scramble before the Ivorian finally fired home from close range.
Andrade was nearly at it again moments later, twisting and turning before firing in a cross for Morais who was then adjudged to have fouled.
The visitors came close to an equaliser on 18 minutes. Andy Bartram ran at Jimmy Smith, cut inside and saw his shot take a deflection and loop up in the box. Chris Day punched clear but only as far as Agyemang on the penalty spot who controlled but somehow fired wide. A let-off for Boro.
The big front man went close four minutes later when he controlled in the box and tried to twist and shoot, but good defending from Luke Jones blocked the shot and Boro cleared.
Stevenage's front four were looking particularly bright and won a couple of corners as they increased the pressure.
Boro went close to doubling their lead on 26 minutes. Good work by Morais and Zoko in the final third saw Filipe lay the ball off to Francois, whose effort from distance stung Carson's hands and went behind for a corner.
At the other end Bartram went close curling an effort just over Day's bar from inside the box. The winger also had a penalty appeal turned down by the referee before Jed Wallace volleyed over from the right.
But it was Boro who scored again on 38 minutes and it was that man Zoko again. The Ivorian latched onto a lovely headed flick by Akins to twist and turn two defenders before finding the back of the net to send the home faithful wild.
Portsmouth responded with a Mahon effort from distance which was straight at Day and a run and shot from Wallace which was headed behind by Akins, with the ref blowing for half time before the set piece could be taken.
The visitors made two changes at the break with Agyemang and Moutaouakil replaced by David Connolly and Danny East respectively as they looked to get back into the game.
But instead it was Boro who went close to extending their lead. A looping cross from Morais was only cleared as far as Andrade, who miscued and fired wide from close range.
Trailing by two goals, things went from bad to worse for the visitors just three minutes into the second half. Gavin Mahon went up for a challenge with Morais and caught him with an elbow - the ref deeming it worthy of a red card.
Despite being down to 10 men, Portsmouth decided to go for it and when Connolly and Bird linked well, the latter put in a dangerous cross which was cleared.
At the other end Boro were keen to kill the game with a third but efforts from both Andrade and Morais from distance went both high and wide.
Lucas Akins then went close just before the hour when Ertl was disposessed in midfield, but his left-footed effort was straight at Carson.
Greg Tansey came on for Andrade and nearly had an immediate impact when his cross from the right was flicked by Akins onto a Pompey defender, with the ball flying behind for a Boro corner.
But with 20 minutes remaining it was Portsmouth who pulled one back on the break. Barcham found himself again running at Smith and when his shot was deflected, it left Connolly to tuck home.
Zoko could have made the game safe and bagged his hat-trick on 76 minutes when Freeman crossed into the box, but the striker was taken by surprise as the covering defender missed his interception, so the ball just hit his head and flied wide.
Morais then went close to securing the win when he latched onto a ball forward, but his low curling effort flew just wide.
With nothing to lose and encouraged by a large travelling support, Pompey flooded forward on several occasions with Barcham the key man out wide.
They forced a flurry of late corners in the five minutes of injury time but Boro's defence stood firm and saw out the game, meaning Stevenage are in the hat for tomorrow's second round draw.
Stevenage: Day, Smith, Ashton, Jones, Freeman, Morais (Deacon 83), Heslop, Doughty, Andrade (Tansey 67), Zoko (Burrow 90), Akins
Subs not used: Arnold, Wedgbury, Parrett, Tounkara
Pompey: Carson, Devera, N'Gala, Bradley, Moutaouakil (East 46), Wallace, Mahon, Ertl (Holmes 71), Bartram, Agyemang (Connolly 46), Bird
Subs not used: Smith, Craddock, Painter, Cooper
Referee: Gary Sutton