Jake Cole saved a late penalty as Maidstone survived a scare against Hitchin to reach the final qualifying round of the Emirates FA Cup.
Cole, beaten by a freak goal as the visitors took an early lead, denied Steve Cawley from the spot as United stayed on course to reach the first round proper for the sixth season running.
Two goals in as many minutes, from Noah Chesmain and Ibby Akanbi, saw United turn the tie around.
They made hard work of it in the second half but take their place in Monday’s draw.
There was an early shock for Maidstone as Southern League Town took a seventh-minute lead.
It came from United’s own corner with the visitors breaking quickly through Leon Okuboyejo.
He found James Verney whose cross from the left – and it surely was a cross – caught the bar and went in.
The Stones wasted no time levelling the tie with the equaliser coming just five minutes later.
Chesmain was the scorer with a 25-yard rocket after collecting Saidou Khan’s pass.
It went straight down the middle of the goal but the pace on the ball gave goalie Charlie Horlock little chance.
United took the lead within two minutes, Nana Kyei – one of two changes from last week’s win over St Albans – playing a clever little pass into the path of Akanbi who eased the ball past Horlock.
Maidstone were all over the visitors for a spell, Wishart forcing a good save from the edge of the box, Akanbi lifting the ball over and Kyei prodding wide.
United dominated possession, given time and freedom to pop the ball about in their own, but the tempo went out of the tie for a while.
There were a couple more openings late in the half, though, with Matt McClure’s 20-yard strike pushed wide before George Elokobi’s cracking 35-yard drive went inches over the top.
Cawley looped a header over for the visitors at the start of the second half, while Max Ryan’s well-hit 25-yard strike caught the side-netting.
At the other end, Akanbi’s header from a Chesmain cross just missed the target and Kyei nodded wide.
Hitchin looked more willing to have a go than they did in the first half and a big chance fell their way with just over 20 minutes left.
It came from a free-kick with the ball eventually dropping to Okuboyejo a couple of yards out but Cole got down well.
They had an even better opportunity after being awarded a penalty with 12 minutes left.
Jack Green went down under challenge from Ryan Johnson but Cole dived to his right to keep out Cawley’s spot-kick.
Wishart twice went close to a late third for the Stones, his first effort blocked by Josh Bickerstaff and his second thumped just wide.
Hitchin should have secured a replay in added time but Joe Gauge missed by inches.
Maidstone United: Noah Chesmain 12, Ibby Akanbi 14
Hitchin Town: James Verney 6
Maidstone United: Jake Cole, Gavin Hoyte, Ryan Johnson, George Elokobi, Noah Chesmain, Clovis Kamdjo, Saidou Khan, Nana Kyei (Justin Amaluzor 71mins), Matt McClure, Dan Wishart, Ibby Akanbi (Jonny Edwards 87mins). Subs not used: Luke Pennell, Jacob Gilbert, Jake Embery, Chris Lewington, Iffy Allen.
Hitchin Town: Charlie Horlock, Jack Green, Alex Anderson (Marcus Crowther 86), Jay Dowie, Joe Gauge, Lewis Ferrell, Max Ryan, Leon Okuboyejo (Dev Simms 81), James Verney (Theo Reed 76), Steve Cawley, Josh Bickerstaff. Subs not used: Josh Mollison, Ciaran Gordon-Stearn.
Who was your Man of the Match against Hitchin Town
- Jake Cole (69%, 25 Votes)
- George Elokobi (14%, 5 Votes)
- Ryan Johnson (6%, 2 Votes)
- Noah Chesmain (6%, 2 Votes)
- Dan Wishart (3%, 1 Votes)
- Nana Kyei (3%, 1 Votes)
- Justin Amaluzor (0%, 0 Votes)
- Ibby Akanbi (0%, 0 Votes)
- Matt McClure (0%, 0 Votes)
- Saidou Khan (0%, 0 Votes)
- Clovis Kamdjo (0%, 0 Votes)
- Gavin Hoyte (0%, 0 Votes)
- Jonny Edwards (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 36