The prospect of a first Wembley appearance in a generation was the sole focus for many of the near 6,000 who packed themselves into the Bramall Lane away section, and for those watching on from home.

Yet beyond that, there was an opportunity to seize the moment in what was arguably the biggest stage that most of the players had been involved in.

Any fears of Rovers freezing, or being over-awed, were soon quashed as they got to work and more than play their part in an FA Cup classic.

Football can be a cruel game, and for Rovers to come away with nothing but heartbreak for their efforts exemplified that.

The players were crestfallen, and understandably so, as in the space of 10 minutes they saw their Wembley dream slip through their fingers.

There was a poignant moment at the final whistle, as the players and fans showed their appreciation for each other.

Both had a huge say in a pulsating encounter in which neither side backed down for any minute.

While this wasn’t to be Rovers’ day in terms of the result, in many ways it still was.

This was the latest building block in a football club trying to ensure that such occasions aren’t once a decade.

Stripping aside the obvious disappointment, there was a sense of pride but also encouragement about the direction of travel the club are heading under the guidance of Jon Dahl Tomasson.

There is still so much the players should take from their performance. Belief should only grow.

Tomasson has spoken of this group of players writing a new chapter in the club’s history.

Rovers supporters have had too few of these moments in recent seasons. With a superb win at Leicester City in round five and then a quarter final classic, they have had two in a matter of weeks.

Alongside the league win over Sheffield United earlier this month, their recent form is feeling the culmination of so much work across the course of a season which still has so much riding on it.

This feels like a season that deserves some kind of reward. An FA Cup semi-final would have been just that.

Ryan Hedges’ shot, that hit the inside of the post and trickled across the line, was the Morten Gamst Pedersen header of the 2007 semi-final with Chelsea.

They could barely have come much closer.

A break from action has undoubtedly fallen at a good time.

It will afford the players time to overcome what was a crushing, and cruel, defeat.

Over time they should reflect with pride on the part they played in an FA Cup classic.

They must now channel those emotions to fuel the fire for the run-in to avoid similar disappointment in the final nine games.

For much of the early months of the season Rovers were functional, totting up points by getting the job done.

Now they look a side willing to go toe-to-toe and looking much more the team Tomasson wants to create.

Undeniably there is plenty of work to do, on and off the pitch, but the progress has been clear.

To see the likes of Hayden Carter and Lewis Travis put in the performances they did, alongside the dependable Dom Hyam and countless others, it felt a coming of age day for some that even the disappointment of the result cannot overshadow.

A third goal in three games, and his all-round contribution too, shows that Rovers could well have talisman Ben Brereton back to his best at just the right time.

There has been criticism from some about the changes that Rovers made with 10 minutes to go.

Tomasson has struggled to change the momentum of games with his substitutions, potentially a reflection of the depth of the options at his disposal.

Some questioned a change of shape. Yet watching the game live, and with the benefit of a second viewing, it was clear that Rovers were defending in a back five, and switching to a four when in possession.

That is most likely why Ryan Hedges got the nod over Tyrhys Dolan, and the way he and Joe Rankin-Costello interchanged was key to Rovers’ make-up.

Adding another central defender to the mix, in Scott Wharton, did make for a more defensive outlook, but it wasn’t much different to how they had been set-up previously, out of possession at last.

Dolan apart, there was little more that Tomasson feel he could do, to freshen things up in the midfield and attacking areas, and it was clear that Rovers were flagging as the game wore on.

The 11 out on the pitch may well have been the most likely to see the team to victory, but such was the effort in an energy-sapping display the head coach felt he was left with no choice but to freshen it up.

That being said, Tomasson will certainly reflect on his role in the defeat, that’s simply his nature.  

Equally, the optics of Tyler Morton going down clutching his face as Sheffield United broke forward, and Tommy Doyle lashing the ball into the top corner from a position on the pitch where he would likely otherwise have been, have also been criticised.

It was a moment of contention, of controversy, another talking point in a thrilling cup tie, but any discussion around Morton shouldn’t overlook his role in both Rovers goals as well as other good work, particularly second half.

This wasn’t to be Rovers’ day in terms of the eventual outcome after 90 minutes of incredible cup football.

Yet it many ways it still was, the growing sense of a football club heading in the right direction.

One Wembley dream denied, but now time to rest, recharge, and focus on another.