Just as Tottenham Hotspur appeared to have secured their place in the FA Cup final through an 88th-minute Harry Kane penalty at Spotland Stadium, Rochdale rallied to snatch a 2-2 draw in the dying seconds, booking a dream Wembley replay.
With several stars rested, Spurs could be accused of not taking their League One opponents as seriously as they should have, although Dale deserve all the credit for this dramatic, memorable result.
Rochdale, currently bottom of the table in the English third tier, defied the odds and went shoulder to shoulder with Tottenham, proving a match for the Premier League high-flyers and taking a shock first-half lead.
Although Spurs fought back in the second period, a last-gasp equaliser for the home side ensured the 10,000-capacity stadium was rocking at the final whistle.
Here are the five things we learned as Rochdale held Tottenham in the FA Cup fifth round.
Spurs Second-String Flat
Mauricio Pochettino rang the changes for Spurs, evidently electing to keep his star players fresh for crucial upcoming Premier League fixtures as well as their nicely poised Champions League last-16 return leg against Juventus at Wembley.
Key players Kane, Christian Eriksen, Mousa Dembélé, Jan Vertonghen, Dele Alli and Hugo Lloris were all omitted from the line-up, while the likes of Juan Foyth, Fernando Llorente and Moussa Sissoko made rare starts.
Tottenham’s mixture of back-ups and those returning from injury struggled to gain a foothold in the game and could hardly complain when they found themselves 1-0 down at half-time.
Lucas Moura, a January signing from Paris Saint-Germain, stood out and netted his first goal for the club to pull Spurs level in the second period. But Alli and Kane, the former winning a penalty which the latter scored, were needed late on.
Once the shock of the late equaliser settles in, Pochettino will reflect disappointedly on how his second-string were unable to replicate the intensity and cohesiveness of the regular Spurs starters.
Rochdale Press Like Spurs
The home side laid down a marker from the off with the way they set about pressing Spurs high up the pitch, never allowing the Premier League side’s defenders to settle on the ball and play out from the back as they wanted to.
Dale gave Tottenham a taste of their own medicine in this sense, as Pochettino’s men are known as one of the finest pressing sides in the country, recently pressuring high-class opposition into errors on their way to positive results against Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Juventus.
He might not be as glamorous as his opposite number on Sunday afternoon, with his flat cap and greying beard, but Rochdale manager Keith Hill deserves huge credit for how he was able to organise and motivate his side.
Lucas Moura Shows Quality
Still working his way back to full sharpness after featuring in just 72 minutes of Ligue 1 action with PSG before his £25million switch to Spurs last month, Moura produced the kind of display against Rochdale that showed what he is capable of and why Pochettino was so keen to sign him.
The Brazilian wideman drew his side level in the second half with a cool, left-footed finish, but the goal – his first in Tottenham white – was merely an exclamation mark on an otherwise impressive performance.
Moura, who was taken off with 20 minutes to go, completed seven take-ons against Dale, more than any other player on the pitch, and looked a threat throughout with his pace and movement. Encouraging signs.
Dale Show Resolve To Come Back
When substitute Kane netted an 88th-minute penalty to make it 2-1 to Tottenham, all and sundry gave up hope of a romantic result at Spotland.
All, that is, except Rochdale, who, having taken a first-half lead through captain Ian Henderson, more than held their own for the majority of the encounter and snatched a stoppage-time equaliser, capitalising on the Spurs backline switching off, clearly having felt their afternoon’s work had been concluded
When the ball was floated in from the left flank in the 93rd minute, Steve Davies was the calmest man in the ground, controlling and sweeping the ball into the bottom corner to secure a historical, deserved result.
Extra Fixture Unwanted For Spurs
Engaged in an intense five-way battle for the remaining three Champions League qualification places behind runaway leaders Manchester City, and with real hopes of making waves in the knockout stages of the continent’s foremost competition itself this term, Spurs will be less than thrilled with the prospect of an extra fixture.
But Pochettino, amid criticism in the press for comments about prioritising other competitions, has reiterated his desire to succeed in the FA Cup this season, and will want to make sure his side are not embarrassed at Wembley in their replay with Rochdale.
With his squad players disappointing against their League One opponents, the Argentinian coach might be reluctant to leave out his stars for the replay, but Kane, Alli, et al could do without an extra game at this vital stage of the season.