Championship - Ten-man Swansea hold Forest
With less than a minute on the clock, full-back Neil Taylor launched into a groin-high challenge on Lewis McGugan, who made the most of contact as referee Mike Dean brandished a red card.
Swansea actually went on to dominate the first half but, as they tired and Forest grew stronger, the Welsh side were hanging on by the end and thankful to some good defending and wasteful finishing.
The visitors got off to a disastrous start when defender Taylor took a very early bath for a wild lunge into McGugan’s privates, Dean given no option other than to dismiss the Welshman as his victim rolled around in agony - although the replay showed a knowing look from the Forest midfielder, not as hurt as he seemed.
It had little effect on how the first half panned out though, as - despite the immediate replacement of midfielder Stephen Dobbie - Swansea largely bossed possession, tapping the ball about as if they had the extra man and creating the better chances than their startled hosts.
Indeed, by the half-hour mark Brendan Rodgers’s side had racked up 60 per cent possession and all the shots on target: livewire youngster Fabio Borini drew a trio of smart saves from Lee Camp, one of which from a long-range free-kick that curled and dipped at pace in the style of Chelsea’s Didier Drogba - the on-loan Italian’s mentor at Stamford Bridge.
Forest edged back into the match later in the half, Robert Earnshaw drawing a superb stop from Dorus De Vries after meeting Kris Boyd’s excellent cross with a searing half-volley, with the Dutch keeper alert to tip behind a Chris Gunter centre that almost crept inside the far post.
Still, the visitors were definitely the happier going into the break, and one must assume harsh words were delivered by Forest boss Billy Davies about his side being given the run-around by 10 men.
Forest duly started the second half in determined fashion, piling the pressure on Swansea and winning a succession of corners as Boyd and Earnshaw caused problems for the visiting back four.
It took seven or eight minutes to test De Vries, a nasty swerving long-range effort from McGugan barely kept out by the Dutchman, but Swansea were under the cosh now as Forest lay camp in their half.
Earnshaw should have done much better when he fired miles over from just inside the box, while Swansea’s night got worse when Borini limped off with an apparent hamstring injury, becoming a major doubt for the second leg.
Swansea were tiring and Forest growing into the side that, at times this season, looked title contenders. The hosts were denied a clear-cut penalty too, when Alan Tate blocked Chris Cohen’s shot with his arm - it was a miss from Dean, who was unable to get a clear view and got no help from his assistant, who correctly ruled out Earnshaw’s goal from the corner that followed for offside.
From the restart Swansea almost grabbed the lead, as the excellent Nathan Dyer’s first-time effort drew a remarkable reflex save from Camp.
But it was all Forest, who by the last 10 minutes were close to 80 per cent possession as substitute Nathan Tyson missed a free header while De Vries kept out a fizzing low drive from Paul Anderson.
Davies threw Marcus Tudgay on in the latter stages as they tried to hunt down their guests but Swansea held firm, getting men behind the ball and giving themselves an excellent chance for Monday’s second leg at the Liberty Stadium.