David James is convinced Portsmouth have at last rediscovered the form that led to their FA Cup success last season.
The holders escaped the ignominy of being eliminated at the first hurdle by winning 2-0 at Bristol City on Tuesday night after the two sides had shared a 0-0 draw at Fratton Park 10 days earlier.
Fortune favoured Tony Adams' side when Peter Crouch appeared to handle the ball – twice – in the Portsmouth penalty area seconds before opening the scoring at the other end, and the Premier League side would have had a more nervous end to the game had James not saved Nicky Maynard's 89th-minute penalty shortly after Niko Kranjcar made it 2-0.
But the England goalkeeper, who had previously made fine stops to deny Maynard and Marvin Elliott, was convinced Portsmouth deserved to be in the fourth round, where they will be at home to Swansea City.
James said: "It was getting back to the old Portsmouth. We did the defending bit well and then we were looking good offensively as well. It breeds confidence and we won the FA Cup last season by winning by one goal all the time, so it's nice to win by two clear goals for a change.
"We built our season on clean sheets last season and broke all sorts of club records so another one will restore some confidence back in the team. They had a couple of chances but we looked a lot more organised and I'm delighted with a clean sheet. It was the story from last season's FA Cup run."
The victory lifted the pressure off Adams' shoulders as the former Arsenal and England captain has found Harry Redknapp a hard act to follow in his first attempt at managing in the Premier League. Portsmouth have won only one of their last eight League games but Adams believed a narrow 1-0 defeat against his former club at the Emirates Stadium on 28 December when Arsenal's William Gallas scored a late goal had been a turning point.
He said: "We are looking a lot tougher to beat and it goes back to the Arsenal game. There is more resilience about us."
Adams was also unconcerned about having to defend the famous trophy, insisting he had not given it much thought. He said: "It doesn't add anything for me. I don't feel it is a burden and I've not used it as a motivational tool – 'Come on, it's our Cup' – because I don't think it's like that. It's a new competition, a new year and a new team."
Bristol City must now concentrate on finishing their Championship campaign on a high and will also need to rediscover last season's form if they are to rise from mid-table to reach the play-offs again.
Leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers are the visitors at Ashton Gate on Saturday evening and manager Gary Johnson was confident his players would rise to the occasion.
He said: "It's a fantastic game for us. They are top of the league and a massive three points because we want to get up the table. The boys will come in refreshed on Thursday and I'm sure they will be happier going into the Wolves game."
Maynard may find himself relieved of penalty duties however following his failure to get the better of James.
Johnson said: "We haven't done ourselves any favours with penalties. We have missed a couple of important ones. I will have a look at that and probably ask myself 500 times whether we need a change."