That day, just about noon, the city gates opened, and two bodies of soldiers appeared as if to fight. Gao Shun was the front commander, and Hou Cheng the rear commander. Cao Cao told off his general, Dian Wei, to oppose them. Neither body, however, came on to full engagement but fell back into the city. By this move Dian Wei and his troops had been drawn close up to the drawbridge. From within the city several soldiers were seen taking any chance of confusion to escape and come outside.
To Cao Cao they said, “We are clients of the Tian family,” and they gave him secret letters stating：
“the signal will be given about the first watch setting by beating a gong. That will be the time to attack. The gates will be opened.”
So Cao Cao ordered Xiahou Dun to march to the left and Cao Hong to the right. Cao Cao led the main army——together with Xiahou Yuan, Li Dian, and Yue Jing——into the city.
Li Dian pressed upon his master the precaution, saying, “My lord should stay outside the city. Let us go in first.”
But Cao Cao bade him be silent, saying, “If I do not go, who will advance？”
And so at the first watch Cao Cao led the way. The moon had not yet arisen. As he drew near the west gate, they heard a crackling sound, then a loud shouting, and then torches moved hither and thither. Next the gates were thrown wide open, and Cao Cao, whipping up his steed, galloped in.
But when he reached the state residence, he noticed the streets were quite deserted, and then he knew he had been tricked. Wheeling round his horse, he shouted to his followers to retire. This was the signal for another move. An explosion of a signal bomb was heard close at hand, and it was echoed from every side in a deafening roar. Gongs and drums beat all around with a roar like rivers rushing backward to their source, and the ocean boiling up from its depths. From two sides east and west came bodies of soldiers eager to attack, led by Lu Bu’s generals Zhang Liao and Zang Ba.
Cao Cao dashed off toward the north only to find his way barred by Hao Meng and Cao Xing. Cao Cao tried for the south gate,
but met enemies led by Gao Shun and Hou Cheng.