Two goals in four second-half minutes saw Rovers safely through to the FA Cup Third Round for the third year in a row.
First round hero Sion Spence dropped to the bench as Rovers took on Sutton United at the Mem.
There was an early moment of interest for the fans as visiting ’keeper Dean Bouzanis ventured forward to take a free-kick in Rovers’ half in the third minute, but his kick blew straight into touch.
Not to be outdone, Gas forward Sam Nicholson lined up a shot from twenty-five yards, only to see his effort swirl out for a throw-in as the blustery conditions made the opening minutes tricky for both teams.
The Mem joined in the nationwide applause in the sixth minute in memory of tragic six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.
The game’s first chance fell to Sutton’s Ajiboye in the tenth minute, but his strike was comfortably dealt with by James Belshaw; the resulting corner coming to nothing.
Belshaw had to be alert again in the 15th minute, racing from his line to clear the danger as Ajiboye looked to latch onto a long ball. Antony Evans registered the Gas’ first effort on target, his low effort requiring Bouzanis to scramble low to his right to palm the ball out, but no Rovers player was following up.
Referee Drysdale showed the game’s first yellow to Davis for bringing down Finley. The set-piece came to nothing and, within seconds, Finley was giving away a free-kick of his own on the edge of Rovers penalty area. Milsom’s strike was into the wall, but as the ball spun away to the right-hand touchline, Antony Evans was booked for clattering into Ajiboye. The free-kick was whipped in and Paul Coutts rose highest to clear for a corner, which Anderton cleared.
The half-hour mark approached, with neither team claiming to be in charge and visiting manager Matt Gray’s every instruction clearly audible in every part of the ground. Collins dragged a shot wide in the 33rd minute and within a minute was in the action again, harshly penalised for handball as he looked to bear down on Bouzanis’ goal.
The visitors were forced into an early change in the 35th minute, Olaofe replaced by Wilson. Connor Taylor was booked in the 44th minute for bringing down Randall-Hurren as the first half fizzled out.
Neither side made a change at the interval, as Sutton began proceedings attacking the Thatchers End, looking to give their 278 travelling supporters something to cheer. Antony Evans took an early free-kick and tried to catch the ’keeper out by going for goal, when everyone was expecting a cross, but his effort flew harmlessly wide.
Sutton took the lead in the 50th minute; substitute Wilson turning down the right-hand flank and crossing for the unmarked Randall-Hurren to slam home from close range.
Harries may have thought himself lucky for not giving away a penalty in the 53rd minute but Rovers then won a spot-kick of their own two minutes later as Nicholson cut inside his marker, who took his legs away as he looked to cross.
Aaron Collins confidently struck the ball down the centre of the goal to register his second FA Cup goal of the season to bring his side level. It got even better two minutes later, as Nick Anderton rose high to power home a header from a pinpoint Antony Evans cross to put the Gasheads in dreamland.
It was all Rovers now as they started to confidently shift the ball across the pitch. Another Evans set-piece led to a corner in the 63rd minute. The playmaker took it himself, finding an onrushing Anderton, but the ball was just taken from his forehead as he looked certain to make it 3-1.
There was a clash of heads in the 71st minute, leaving both Sam Finley and visiting skipper Eastmond requiring treatment. When play resumed, Sutton fashioned a chance to equalise but Wilson blazed wide when teed up on the edge of the box after a flowing move.
Sam Nicholson departed the action in the 75th minute, replaced by Brett Pitman. A fierce Finley drive from 25 yards was beaten away by Bouzanis before Evans went even closer in the 80th minute, sprinting clear and lobbing the ’keeper, only to see the ball crash against the post and behind.
Another delicious dead ball from the number 21 found the head of Collins, but it landed straight in the arms of Bouzanis. The assistant referee indicated there would be five minutes of injury time as Rovers looked to see the game out.
Bouzanis came up in the 93rd minute for a Sutton corner, but Rovers cleared their lines and go into the hat for Monday’s third round draw.
Next up for Rovers is a Sky Bet League Two home game with Port Vale on Tuesday night, kick-off 7.45pm.
ROVERS: Belshaw, Finley, Collins, Nicholson (Pitman 75), Coutts, Anderton, Taylor, Anderson, Evans, Harries, Whelan. Subs: Ward, Thomas, Westbrooke, Martinez, Clarke, Spence, Hoole, Pitman, Jones.
SUBS: Jed Ward, Luke Thomas, Zain Westbrooke, Pablo Martinez, Trevor Clarke, Sion Spence, Luca Hoole, Brett Pitman, Ryan Jones.
SUTTON: Bouzanis, Barden, Goodliffe, John, Ajoboye, Davis, Bugiel (Bennett 82), Randall-Hurren, Eastmond, Olaofe (Wilson 35), Milsom. Subs: Chalupniczak, Dundas, Korboa, Boldewijn, Wilson, Bennett.
SUBS: Flip Chalupniczak, Craig Dundas, Ricky Korboa, Enzo Boldewijn, Donavan Wilson, Richard Bennett.
REFEREE: Darren Drysdale
ATTENDANCE: 4,456 (278 away)