(Bolton win 5-4 on aggregate)
Hitzlsperger gave Villa the start they needed
Bolton Wanderers reached the final of the Carling Cup despite losing to 10-man Aston Villa.
Thomas Hitzlsperger executed a wonderful free-kick early on to give Villa hope, but they failed to build on their excellent start.
And the hosts were faced with an uphill task when Gavin McCann was sent off just before half time.
Jlloyd Samuel grabbed a second for Villa at the death, but Bolton survived the late onslaught to get to Cardiff.
Staring at a three-goal deficit and missing injured top scorer Juan Pablo Angel, Villa signalled their intent to attack from kick-off.
Darius Vassell provided the pace and Peter Crouch the height as the home side bombarded the Bolton goal.
10 mins: Hitzlsperger scores for Villa
40 mins: McCann is sent off
88 mins: Samuel nets a second for Villa
Vassell forced Jussi Jaaskelainen into some early action after the Villa striker connected with Gareth Barry's knockdown.
But Vassell's shot from inside the six-yard box lacked power and the Bolton keeper gathered the ball.
The England forward then tried a left-foot shot from the edge of the area which flashed past the post.
However, Villa were rewarded for their positive start when Hitzlsperger whipped in a free-kick from 25 yards out after Crouch had been fouled by Ivan Campo, who went on to have a magnificent match.
It was the goal and the start the tie needed, but the vigour of the opening period was replaced by sloppy play with Bolton failing to impose themselves.
McCann shows his despair at red card
Shorn of the mercurial Jay-Jay Okocha, Bolton looked a shadow of the side that had triumphed 5-2 at the Reebok six days ago.
But they weathered the early Villa storm and gained a numerical advantage just before the break when McCann was rightly sent off for a dangerous, late tackle on Jaaskelainen.
Villa boss David O'Leary was furious with referee Steve Bennett.
But McCann, who had already been booked, was shown a straight red for slapping Emerson Thome in the melee that followed his crude challenge.
After the interval, Peter Whittingham replaced the injured Lee Hendrie.
And the Villa youngster went close with a 20-yard strike that flashed just wide.
Indeed, Whittingham looked like Villa's best chance of closing the gap.
The home side kept pressing, although Kevin Davies almost restored parity for Bolton when he raced clear of the Villa defence and unleashed a fierce shot that rolled past the post.
O'Leary urged his players forward and they set up a grandstand finish when Samuel picked up a loose ball in the area and poked home from close range.
However, Villa could not muster the equaliser that their Herculean efforts on the evening merited and Bolton held on to make it to their first League Cup final in nine years.
Aston Villa: Sorensen, Delaney, Mellberg, Dublin, Samuel,
Hendrie (Whittingham 47), McCann, Hitzlsperger, Barry, Crouch,
Subs Not Used: Postma, Allback, Ridgewell, Johnsen.
Sent off: McCann (40).
Booked: Samuel, Vassell, McCann.
Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Hunt, N'Gotty, Thome,
Charlton (Barness 68), Giannakopoulos,
Frandsen (Javi Moreno 88), Campo, Ba, Davies,
Djorkaeff (Pedersen 78).
Subs Not Used: Poole, Vaz Te.
Booked: Thome, Hunt, Davies.
Referee: S Bennett (Kent).