The Huskers (13-6-1, 5-4-1) got past the first round for the first time since 2005. They hadn't even scored a goal in three appearances since then, but that ended 21 ½ minutes into the game when Jordan Jackson got past Missouri goalkeeper Paula Pritzen and kicked one into the open net for a 1-0 lead.
"It was a good performance from a team that has been a little bit up and down," Nebraska coach John Walker said. "Talented team, you can see that. We're dangerous in our attacking play. We needed that game, for sure."
Nebraska plays the winner between second-seeded Oklahoma State and seventh-seeded Texas Tech, who play Wednesday at 8 p.m. The semifinal match is 8 p.m. Friday.
The Huskers' quick exit last year, a 3-0 loss to eventual champion Oklahoma State, came about when conference Offensive Player of the Year Morgan Marlborough stayed in her hotel room because of a high fever. She was much better Wednesday, and her goal four minutes after Jackson's put Nebraska up 2-0. It was her Big 12-leading 17th of the season.
"My senior year of high school and last year I kept getting sick," Marlborough said. "The night before the game I couldn't talk, I couldn't swallow. I had a fever. It was bad, and I felt bad because I couldn't play with the team. So it was good to get out here and have my first experience in the Big 12 championship."
It's not the first time the sixth-seeded Tigers (7-10-2, 5-5-0) have seen a scoring onslaught from Nebraska. The last time these teams played, the Huskers overcame a 2-0 deficit with four second-half goals in their Oct. 10 triumph at Lincoln.
Missouri had advanced at least as far as the semifinals each of the past three seasons and hadn't lost in a first-round game since 2005.
The Tigers got on the board in the 32nd minute when Dominique Richardson launched a long, high ball to Krista Kruse, who fired it into an open net about 15 yards away when Cornhuskers goalkeeper Tara Macdonald lost her footing.
But five minutes later, Nebraska scored off a corner-kick set. Marlborough put it into play, but only a few steps away to Ari Romero. She crossed a pass to Blair Slapper, who eased it over to Jaclyn White for her fourth goal of the season. White fired it between the low post and Pritzen for a 3-1 lead seven minutes before halftime.
"Nebraska's attacking options we knew were going to give up problems," Tigers coach Bryan Blitz said. "I was hoping we could get out of there 2-1 (before halftime), and they scored that one at the very end. They're very, very dynamic. They're players were on, and they finished."
Nebraska was playing with the aid of a 25-mph wind, which helped the Huskers push the ball into the Missouri zone from the start. That included a flurry of three shots on goal in the fourth minute.
Marlborough got off a shot right at the goal mouth, which Pritzen managed to block. Stacy Bartels followed on the rebound for Nebraska, but she was turned away because Tigers defender Jessica Greer got her foot down in front of the line. Another rebound went out to Colleen Goetzmann, but the Huskers were turned away again by Greer when she finally cleared the ball away.
But Jackson made it 1-0 when she got a loose ball from Bartels about 30 yards away from the goal that Pritzen had to come out and defend. But when Pritzen hit the deck yet could not get a handle on the ball, Jackson got past her and had an easy shot from about 10 yards away.
Even with the 3-1 halftime lead, and going into a wind that had died down some, Nebraska kept the pressure on. After the first 8 ½ minutes of the second half, the Huskers had four shots on goal to none for Missouri.
"We felt there was no point in doing anything we hadn't done all year," Walker said. "We had some really good chances. When your down like that you have to take some risks, and (Missouri) took some risks."
Bartels scored a goal of her own that made it 4-1 early in the second half when she followed Goetzmann's miss with a rebound score.