TRANMERE'S hopes of reaching the third round of the Carling Cup for the first time in nine years were cruelly dashed by Swansea's late show at Prenton Park last night.
Enoch Showunmi's first goal for Rovers deservedly put Rovers in front before the break and they looked set to cause an upset against their Championship visitors.
However, with 17 minutes to go Cedric van der Gun grabbed a fortuitous equaliser and just 60 seconds later Tranmere were undone by a stunning individual goal from Swansea's new £500,000 signing Scott Sinclair.
Left chasing the game in the closing stages, Tranmere conceded a third in stoppage time when Shefki Kuqi fired home.
It was Rovers' third successive home defeat of the season but this was a major improvement on last Saturday's 3-0 league reverse at the hands of Bournemouth.
Early on Showunmi's pass released Joss Labadie but he lashed his shot wastefully wide. However, the breakthrough arrived in the 22nd minute. There appeared to be little danger when Showunmi, who was released by Falkirk at the end of last season, challenged Albert Serran near the edge of the box.
But the 6ft 5ins former Nigerian international got the better of the defender, nodded the ball past keeper Dorus de Vries and from an acute angle coolly fired into the empty net.
Swansea almost produced an instant riposte but Joe Allen blazed into the side netting.
The visitors enjoyed plenty of possession but struggled to break down a resolute home rearguard.
Having been second best for 45 minutes, Swansea stepped up a gear in the second half and Rovers had to weather the storm.
Andrea Orlandi's pass set Allen through on goal but keeper Joe Collister produced a stunning save to turn his shot over the bar.
Former Crystal Palace striker Kuqi then nodded just wide before Allen tested Collister again.
Rovers had one chance to double their tally but from Aaron Cresswell's cross, Showunmi misjudged his header and Terry Gornell hooked the rebound over.
Just before the hour mark Rodgers introduced Sinclair who was recently snapped up from Chelsea after spending last season on loan at Wigan.
Sinclair blazed one promising free-kick over the bar and as the half wore on the Swans appeared to have run out of ideas.
However, in the 73rd minute they mustered an equaliser out of nothing. Orlandi's blistering 20-yard drive cannoned back off the bar and Collister couldn't react quickly enough to keep out van der Gun's weak effort from the rebound as the ball dribbled over the line.
Rovers were still coming to terms with that setback when Sinclair settled the tie.
The talented winger raced down the left and unleashed an unstoppable shot beyond Collister and into the far corner.
Shellshocked, Rovers never seriously threatened to get back on level terms and the Swansea threatened to add to their account.
Kuqi's header flew just over and Rovers right-back Liam Darville produced a fine goal-saving block to thwart Sinclair.
Deep into stoppage time Kuqi was put clear by Serran and the striker held his nerve to find the bottom corner.
It was a result which greatly flattered the Swans and wrecked Rovers' dream of a bumper pay day against a Premier League club.
TRANMERE (4-3-3): Collister, Darville, Blanchard, Goodison, Cresswell, Welsh, McLaren (McGurk 82), Labadie, Gornell (Akins 82). Showunmi, Thomas-Moore.
Not used: Cathalina, Wood, Fraughan, Bakayogo, Miotto.
SWANSEA (4-3-3): De Vries, Serran, Williams, Monk, Taylor (Tate 86), Orlandi, Lopez (Dobbie 57), Allen, Thomas (Sinclair 57), Allen, Kuqi, van der Gun.
Not used: Cornell, Donnelly, Richards, Walsh.
Bookings: Serran, Kuqi
Referee: M Haywood
Next game: away to Dagenham on Saturday in League One (3pm).