The romance of the Cup? Not when there is a chance of a lucrative replay. In the 93rd minute Joe Ledley, Cardiff's highly-rated young midfielder and captain, had the opportunity for one last attack, one last cross into the Arsenal penalty area, one last opportunity to find the goal to win this tie. Instead Ledley ran the ball into the corner, killing the final few seconds until referee Martin Atkinson blew his whistle.
"There were one or two boos when we were keeping the ball," admitted the Cardiff manager, Dave Jones, afterwards. "We were playing Arsenal. Give us a break." However Jones also added: "The only one cheering was the chairman. It's a massive pay-day for us."
With a trip to the 60,000-capacity Emirates Stadium and the possibility of further television coverage, Jones was right on that count. And given Cardiff's previous traumas when it comes to money and financial difficulties, their desire to cash in was understandable.
And yet it was also just a bit disappointing. Cardiff are no non-league outfit or struggling lower division side but, as Jones himself also pointed out, a team riding well in the Championship, with a brand new stadium emerging in the shadows of Ninian Park and "trying to take forward a nation", not just a football club. There was also the need to stay toe-to-toe with Swansea City who, the day before of course, had dumped the cup-holders Portsmouth out of the competition in some style.
Jones, understandably, bridled a little at that one adding, with complete justification, that claiming Cardiff could have "put Welsh football on the map" by defeating Arsenal was simply ridiculous. "I thought we did that last season," Jones said, referring to Cardiff's exploits in reaching the final last May.
That was the first time they had done so since 1927, when they prevailed against Arsenal, and as much as their supporters gleefully chanted that they were on the way back to London following this result it felt like a missed opportunity rather than another chance. There was an undercurrent of more than just goading, also, with police having to move in at the end of the game, as both sets of supporters taunted each other in one corner.
It is a measure of how far Arsenal have slipped, and are in danger of falling, that manager Arsène Wenger, having implied he would rest players, pretty much threw that plan out of the window. He also wanted to take Robin van Persie off, ahead of Wednesday's Premier League game away to Everton, but could not risk that either.
"They [Cardiff] played a great cup game with committed supporters, 100 per cent behind their team," Wenger said. "And they wanted a replay." An extra fixture is not what he wanted, but the manager remarked: "It's one more game to play. If that's the price we have to pay to stay in the hat, we're happy to do it."
But Wenger was quick to complain his squad remains "short" of numbers at the moment, but the blunt truth is that this cup represents their best chance of silverware and they had to hang on in there.
It is certainly what they had to do at the start of this encounter. Ross McCormack should have done far better than heading weakly as he reached Ledley's cross and then the former Motherwell striker dragged a shot across goal, when a long ball forward was missed by Johan Djourou.
Arsenal were nervous and Cardiff, building a head of steam, almost capitalised on the visitors; shaky defence when further chances fell to Ledley – who volleyed over – and Paul Parry whose effort also cleared the cross-bar. Arsenal found a foothold but Samir Nasri delayed before shooting and Peter Enckelman easily beat out his effort. That followed a smart pass by Van Persie and the striker was instrumental again in laying the ball off to Kieron Gibbs – playing due to Gaël Clichy's suspension – who sent it narrowly wide.
Both sides claimed for penalties – both were rightly denied – while every touch from the former Cardiff midfielder Aaron Ramsey who moved to Arsenal last summer, was booed. The 18-year-old was withdrawn – as was Emmanuel Eboué, who shook his head in disgust – with Wenger pushing on Emmanuel Adebayor and Abou Diaby to add more threat. By now his team was in control with Van Persie – twice – thwarted by Enckelman from close-range before Adebayor fluffed Arsenal's best opportunity, making a shocking hash of a volley, when unmarked at the far post, after Van Persie's cross was deflected to him.
Cardiff sensed that they were struggling to contain the visitors even if Lukasz Fabianski was unconvincing in beating out McCormack's long-range shot before, finally, a free-kick by the striker, from a full 30 yards, dipped and clipped the top of the crossbar.
The goalkeeper got a touch, but no corner was given, and it was the closest either side came. "Maybe it's another opportunity for them [Cardiff] to have another big game," Wenger said.
Maybe it is another opportunity for Arsenal, also, although it may, just, have been different had Ledley decided to cross.
Cardiff City (4-4-2): Enckelman; McNaughton, Gyepes, R Johnson, Kennedy; Burke (Capaldi, 79), Ledley, Rae, Parry; McCormack, Bothroyd (E Johnson, 90). Substitutes not used: Heaton (gk), Purse, McPhail, Comminges, Blake.
Arsenal (4-4-2): Fabianski; Sagna, Touré, Djourou, Gibbs; Eboué (Adebayor, 66), Song, Ramsey (Diaby, 59), Nasri; Bendtner (Wilshere, 88), Van Persie. Substitutes not used: Almunia (gk), Gallas, Vela, Denilson.
Referee: M Atkinson (W Yorkshire)
Booked: Arsenal Eboué, Van Persie.
Man of the match: Johnson.
Attendance: 20,079.Reuse content