Tottenham Hotspur finally ended lowly Newport County’s brave FA Cup run with a 2-0 win in a fourth-round replay at Wembley on Wednesday.
Spurs, the eight-times FA Cup winners, were just eight minutes away from a humiliating exit when England striker Harry Kane scored to salvage a 1-1 draw away to fourth-tier Newport last month.
But it was a different story at Wembley where, with South Korea’s Son Heung-Min impressing for Tottenham, Dan Butler’s 26th-minute own goal and an Erik Lamela strike eight minutes later put Spurs 2-0 up before half-time.
Tottenham will now travel to third-tier strugglers Rochdale for a last-16 tie on the weekend of February 17-18.
With Spurs playing their home games at Wembley — once reserved solely for cup finals and England internationals — while a new ground to replace their traditional White Hart Lane base is constructed, securing a replay meant Newport were playing at the national stadium.
But the lure of a Wembley fixture could not stop Newport midfielder Sean Rigg quitting between the two ties to become a tattoo artist.
Meanwhile Newport manager Michael Flynn, who has signed a contract extension until 2020, apologised to Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino for a dossier that said Spurs star Dele Alli didn’t work hard enough in possession.
The FA Cup has been a huge financial boost for Newport, with their run to this stage earning them at least £700,000 ($972,000, 792,000 euros).
But the concern for the Welsh club was that the chance of an upset had come and gone at their Rodney Parade ground, where a goal from Irish striker Padraig Amond had looked as if it might secure a famous giant-killing.
Since the original tie, Newport had lost twice, while Spurs had beaten Manchester United and drawn at Liverpool.
Pochettino rested several players but Belgium centre-back Toby Alderweireld returned for his first appearance since Spurs’s Champions League win against Real Madrid on November 1, with England left-back Danny Rose starting for the first time since Boxing Day.
Newport were far from overawed early on and it took a huge slice of luck to give Spurs the lead in the 26th minute when a cross from Moussa Sissoko deflected off Butler and left goalkeeper Joe Day stranded.
It was not long before Spurs had their second goal, when Lamekla scored for the first time since finding the net against Gillingham in September 2016.
Son played a superbly weighted ball into the box and Lamela slipped a shot between the legs of Day.