Goals from Michael Cheek and Joe Ward inside the first five minutes gave City the perfect start although they were pegged back by the half hour thanks to goals from Osei Sankofa, Jake Robinson and a thunderbolt by Lee Hills.
But City levelled matters before the break when Cheek equalised from a corner only for Whitehawk to retake the lead through Robinson.
A third penalty miss in three games – this one from Rohdell Gordon – was at least followed up by Ward tapping in his second as both him and Cheek had glorious chances to win it late on.
Following the agonising 1-0 defeat to Concord Rangers, City boss Mark Hawkes made just the one change to his starting 11 choosing to select Niklas Fruend in goal ahead of Nicky Eyre.
The disappointment of Monday though would have been short lived as City made a blistering start to the game scoring twice in the opening five minutes to stun the home side.
Michael Cheek made up for his second penalty miss in as many games on Monday by opening the scoring after latching onto a flick on by Luke Callander to smash home.
And then three minutes later a free kick awarded 25 yards out was struck low and into a dangerous area, curling into the bottom corner and past Lewis Ward to double City’s advantage.
City could not have asked for a better start but their joy was tapered somewhat as Whitehawk reduced the deficit quickly as Osei Sankofa bundled the ball in from a corner.
And with City rattled another corner almost produced an equaliser as James Love was forced to clear Danny Mills’ header off the line.
But the hosts did not have to wait too much longer as they were level again before even a quarter of the game had been played.
Having looked susceptible to balls into the box City failed to clear another ball into the area and Whitehawk’s Jake Robinson was on hand to steer the ball past Freund on the turn to level it up.
Having let their two goal lead slip City were at sixes and sevens and the hosts completed the turnaround just past the half hour mark when another ball into the box wasn’t cleared far enough.
Falling to Lee Hills, the Whitehawk left back let fly from distance, arrowing the ball into the top corner giving Freund absolutely no chance.
So having made the perfect start the Clarets now had to regroup and found themselves having to come from behind, but the City bosses’ half-time team talk would have taken a twist after Cheek brought City level on the stroke of half time.
A succession of corners eventually led to one being swung towards the far post by Ward. Cheek rose highest at the far post to bury his header and give the visitors the impetus again going into the second half.
In comparison the second half was tame but the Clarets were forced to come from behind once again as midway through the second half Robinson grabbed his second and Whitehawk’s fourth.
A slide-rule ball through the middle had Robinson one on one with Freund with Robinson’s first effort being superbly saved by the young German ‘keeper. But the recovering Yado Mambo could not prevent Mills from squaring the ball back to Robinson to tap in the rebound.
The host’s fourth goal appeared the set light the blue touch paper in the second half as this crazy game of football took yet another twist as City were awarded a penalty for foul on substitute Rohdell Gordon.
Having missed his last two, Cheek passed penalty duties onto Gordon but his penalty was poor and was saved by Lewis Ward only for Joe Ward to thankfully mop up and tap home the rebound.
With both Ward and Cheek now on hat-tricks both had brilliant opportunities to win it as Ward was denied by his namesake at the far post and Cheek slipped in the area when clear through.
The game looked destined for a Monday night replay at the Melbourne Stadium, but Whitehawk had one final chance to nick it as City gave away a free kick in a dangerous area.
The initial effort from Deering struck the wall, falling kindly to David Ijaha at the far post. With hearts in mouths the Whitehawk man failed to hit the target sending the ball wide as City held on to force a replay.
A somewhat relieved Mark Hawkes said after the dust had settled on a fantastic game of football that “firstly we’re happy to still be in the cup.”
“(It was a) great end-to-end, entertaining game full of incident for the neutral fans to watch – they got their monies worth – but from a manager’s point of view you don’t want to see games like that.”
“Credit to our lads, we kept going to the end. We did find ourselves two in front, but we also found ourselves behind twice and, like I said Monday night, we have the work rate and desire, we don’t know when we’re beaten.”
1. Lewis Ward
2. Callum Driver
3. Lee Hills
4. Exodus Geohaghon
5. Osei Sankofa
6. David Ijaha
7. Sam Deering
8. Sergio Torres
9. Jake Robinson
10. Danny Mills
11. John-Paul Kissocks
12. Sergio Makofo (On for Jake Robinson 87')
14. Emmanuel Monthe
15. Ahmed Abdulla (On for Danny Mills 83’)
16. Sam Gargan
17. Pa Saikou Kujabi
1. Niklas Freund
2. James Love
3. Leon Redwood
4. Mark Hughes (C)
5. Mark Haines
6. Yado Mambo
7. Lee Sawyer
8. Joe Ward
9. Luke Callander
10. Michael Cheek
11. Nicky Nicolau
12. Rob Girdlestone
14. Harry Morgan
15. Sam Gregory (On for Luke Callander 10’)
16. Christian Smith (On for Nicky Nicolau 76’)
17. Marvin Ekpiteta
18. Rohdell Gordon (On for Sam Gregory 65’)
Referee: John O’Brien
Assistants: Nicholas Mackenzie, Chris Felton
Whitehawk: Osei Sankofa 11’, Jake Robinson 19’, 68’, Lee Hills 31’
Chelmsford City: Michael Cheek 2’, 45 + 3’, Joe Ward 5’, 75’
Whitehawk: John-Paul Kissocks (65’ – Foul), Exodus Geohaghon (74' - Foul), Jake Robinson (76’ – Foul)
Chelmsford City: Leon Redwood (30’ – Foul), Mark Haines (44’ – Foul), Christian Smith (90' - Foul)
City Man of the Match: Joe Ward