In the land of giants, no slaying, but Stoke City were so close a matter of inches from inflicting a fourth consecutive defeat on Newcastle United and another pile of speculation on Sam Allardyce. Steven Taylor's 66th minute goal line clearance from Jon Parkin was the contact that prevented Newcastle sinking, though the fact that Taylor hit the post at the other end 13 minutes earlier must not be ignored. Newcastle were far from brilliant last night but they have, at least for now, avoided fresh damage. There will be a replay at St James' ark on Wednesday week but Allardyce will be told not to think the hard work has been done: last season Glenn Roeder thought that and Newcastle lost the third round home replay against Championship side Birmingham City 5-1.
Allardyce and Tony Pulis will be deprived of their African Nations Cup players but given that Mamady Sidibe's replacement here, Parkin, was arguably the most effective man on the pitch when he was introduced 65 minutes in, Pulis will probably be the less worried. At 6ft 4in, in a team of six-footers, Parkin was constant trouble. He will fancy St James'.
But some of the hysteria surrounding Newcastle can be put aside for now and Mike Ashley, in amongst the away end again, will hope no more rebuttals will have to be issued. His manager stays.
That does not mean everything is all right of course. Just when Allardyce needed a full complement of players, the Newcastle teamsheet revealed the opposite. The starting XI was recognisable but the bench included three youngsters one of them, Kazenga LuaLua, the 17-year-old cousin of Lomana, was given a debut replacing Damien Duff.
Emre's whereabouts like his commitment to the cause was the subject of much debate. Of the African internationals, it had been agreed with Nigeria that Obafemi Martins would not play in this game, though he may appear at Old Trafford on Saturday, Habib Beye had a knock and Geremi was at a Cameroon training camp. Throw in a bad bout of flu for James Milner.
Fortunately, or perhaps thankfully given the above, Abdoulaye Faye was available. The big Senegalese, whom Allardyce brought from Bolton, was placed at centre-half beside Steven Taylor. It was a physical combination designed to repel Stoke's much-touted giant forward line of Ricardo Fuller and Sidibe.
The early exchanges, in fact the first half, may not have been as combative as Newcastle had feared. Faye, for one, gave as good as he got and Shay Given made no saves in those first 45 minutes.
That's not to say Stoke did not threaten. Twice the hosts made their way into the Newcastle area but on the first occasion, on 25 minutes, Faye made a block tackle on Fuller. That upped the noise on an atmospheric night.
Then, four minutes before the interval, Richard Cresswell found room down the left. Faced with Taylor and the prospect of a glorious curler beyond Given into the far corner, Cresswell miscued horribly. His shot went for a throw-in.
In both those attacks, and in others, Stoke had been presented with possession by Newcastle. Nicky Butt and Alan Smith were both culpable.
But on the whole, the Geordies were measured with the ball. Seconds before Fuller's opportunity, Michael Owen seemed to have his moment when Ryan Shawcross misjudged a Mark Viduka pass. The bounce of the ball left Owen one-on-one with Steve Simonsen, but the Stoke goalkeeper, a Sunderland fan, got to it first.
Simonsen then made a useful diving save to repel a Charles N'Zogbia drive but the second half began with Newcastle again on the front foot.
When N'Zogbia sent in a whipped free-kick from the right a scramble ensued that saw Taylor hit the post from barely two yards. Duff then scooped the ball back towards Owen but, virtually on the line, Owen somehow failed to make contact.
Not taking their chances has been a theme of late for Newcastle and when Parkin came on for Sidibe, his impact was immediate. Within a minute he had combined with Fuller, and only the backtracking Taylor, sprawled on his goal line prevented Parkin from putting Stoke in front. Newcastle were seriously disturbed for the first time.
Stoke came again, corners were won, pressure was exerted and when Fuller smacked a 20-yard 74th-minute shot the deflection off Taylor appeared to be taking the ball past Given. It did that but skidded a yard wide. After that Stoke tried to force the pace again but even this pumped up, it was difficult to maintain such a tempo.
Then, just as the clock went up to show three minutes of injury-time, Cresswell robbed David Rozehnal and fed Fuller.
Given could not hold his strike but grabbed it at the second attempt. That is what Stoke now have.
Stoke City (4-4-2) Simonsen; Wilkinson, Cort, Shawcross, Dickinson; Lawrence, Pugh, Eustace, Cresswell; Fuller, Sidibe (Parkin, 65). Substitutes not used: Hoult, Zakuani, Pulis, Pericard.
Newcastle United (4-3-3) Given; Rozehnal, Taylor, Faye, Enrique; Butt, Smith, N'Zogbia; Duff (K LuaLua, 74) Viduka (Carroll, 86), Owen. Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Edgar, Cacapa.
Referee: S Bennett (Kent)
Booked: Stoke Parkin. Newcastle Butt.
Man of the match: Taylor
Call from Capello?
Michael Owen (Newcastle)
Missed the one real opportunity he had, in the 55th minute, and especially in the second half he looked unhappy at being isolated.
Cup runners: Qualifiers for the next round
* Fourth-round qualifiers: Arsenal, Barnsley, Cardiff City, Chelsea, Coventry City, Huddersfield Town, Manchester United, Mansfield Town, Middlesbrough, Oldham Athletic, Peterborough, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Preston, Sheffield United, Southampton, Southend, Watford, Wigan, Wolverhampton.
* REPLAY DATES (7:45pm unless stated)
Tuesday 15 January: West Bromwich v Charlton; Bury v Norwich; Barnet v Swindon; Reading v Tottenham (8.0pm); Hereford v Tranmere; Millwall v Walsall; Sheffield Wednesday v Derby; Bristol Rovers v Fulham; Liverpool v Luton.
Wednesday 16 January: Manchester City v West Ham United; Havant & Waterlooville v Swansea.
To be confirmed: Newcastle v Stoke.
The fourth-round draw will take place today at 1.30pm, and is live on BBC2 and Radio Five Live.Reuse content