West Ham United 3 Barnsley 0
Last year, the Tykes famously accounted for both Liverpool and Chelsea on their way to an agonising last-four defeat against Cardiff City at Wembley, while West Ham fell at the first hurdle against Manchester City .
But this time around, there was to be no repeat for the Yorkshiremen, who kicked off their campaign with a distinctly continental look, making five changes from the side that drew 1-1 with Preston North End last Sunday.
But with just ten minutes on the clock, it was the Hammers who broke the deadlock thanks to one of their own foreign stars - DR Congo international Ilunga.
The on-loan defender was tripped in full flow by the duly booked Kayode Odejayi and when Noble curled over the resulting free-kick, Ilunga was there at the far post to force the ball over the line at the second attempt and claim his first-ever goal on English soil.
Down but not yet out, the Tykes quickly looked to get back into the contest.
Both Jamal Campbell-Ryce and Bobby Hassell were off target, while Hugo Roberto Colace tried an audacious yet harmless shot from the halfway line before the impressive Diego Leon tested Robert Green with a more tricky 20-yarder.
On 39 minutes, Noble justified his recall to the side when his mazy run along the byline was illegally halted by Colace and, after picking himself up off the crisp Upton Park turf, the England Under-21 midfielder calmly fired his low spot-kick beyond the outstretched right glove of Heinz Muller.
Battered and bruised, Barnsley still emerged for the restart in dogged and determined mood and within five minutes, the lively Leon's 20-yarder thudded back off the base of Green's right-hand post, onto the back of the keeper's head and away for a corner.
In reply, Jack Collison sent a low 20-yarder into the clutches of Muller but, despite their two-goal advantage, the Premier League side were still far from being in total control.
But midway through the half, Matthew Etherington replaced Luis Boa Morte and, within seconds of his arrival, the winger invited Ilunga to cross into the danger zone, where Cole rose highest to nod beyond the flat-footed Muller and put the tie beyond Barnsley 's reach.
The cheers of the frozen claret and blue fans amongst the crowd of 28,869 were still subsiding when Kieron Dyer stepped from the bench to even greater applause.
And moments after stepping onto a football pitch for the first time since breaking his leg at Bristol Rovers in August 2007, the England international sent a confidence-boosting 25-yarder wide of Muller's left-hand angle before depositing another long-ranger onto the roof of the net.