Leicester, fourth from the foot of the Championship, claimed the biggest scalp of an eventful FA Cup weekend last night when they came from two goals down to defeat Tottenham, fourth from the top of the Premiership, with a stoppage-time goal by Mark de Vries.
As his fellow Dutchman, Martin Jol, looked on in disbelief, De Vries drifted on to a pass by Joey Gudjonsson, ignored the centre-back's forlorn appeals for offside and rolled the ball calmly past Paul Robinson. Cue pandemonium in the Walkers Stadium.
Craig Levein, having gone into the tie with one paper claiming the board had decided on his replacement, would have been excused for gloating. Likewise De Vries, heavily criticised after following his manager from Hearts a year ago. Instead, Levein spoke calmly of the work last week to ensure his players stayed "focused" if they fell behind.
They certainly did that. As the songs of Chas & Dave filled the air in the Tottenham end when they led 2-0 in 41 minutes through Jermaine Jenas and Paul Stalteri, Leicester were facing the music. Appropriately enough, Elvis Hammond pulled one back (on the "other" Elvis' birthday) and the outstanding Stephen Hughes levelled before De Vries enabled Leicester to call the tune.
Jol, whose team went out of the Carling Cup at Grimsby to a similarly late strike, insisted Tottenham were "the better team". Showing his mastery of the vernacular, he admitted he was "gutted", although the defeat had clearly affected his judgement when he suggested that Paul Robinson "did not have a save to make in the second half".
It all looked so straightforward for Tottenham early on. Jol had obviously identified the left of Leicester's defence as a potential source of goals. Aaron Lennon's pace and trickery were too much for Alan Maybury, and it was no surprise that Tottenham's first goal followed a foul by one ex-Leeds player on the other. Maybury was booked before Michael Carrick's free-kick was headed against a post by Robbie Keane, Jenas converting the rebound for his fourth goal since leaving Newcastle in August.
The second goal came from the same flank, although Lennon, rather like the home goalkeeper Rab Douglas, was more of a spectator on this occasion. Keane rolled the ball wide to Stalteri and the Canadian collected his first goal in the English game when his 18-yard shot beat the former Celtic custodian for sheer power on his near post. Apart from the uneven duel between Maybury and Lennon, Leicester had stuck doggedly to their strategy of going man for man in midfield and stifling Tottenham's measured build-up.
Suddenly, the game-plan looked to have been shredded and a big defeat seemed probable. Between the two Tottenham goals, however, Levein had abandoned the ploy of leaving De Vries to forage alone, introducing Hammond and switching to 4-4-2. De Vries' robust approach had caused problems to Michael Dawson and Anthony Gardner; with another striker to contend with, the Tottenham rearguard began to look fallible.
Nine minutes after coming on, Hammond answered the taunts of "Elvis, gissa song" by giving Leicester a lifeline. A cross by Ryan Smith was headed across goal by Richard Stearman for Hammond to side-foot the ball in.
Even then, only the most dyed-in-the-wool Leicester supporters can have expected their players to come out after half-time and put Tottenham under intense pressure. Yet that is what happened.
In their heyday under Martin O'Neill, Leicester were renowned for their set-pieces. Their equaliser here had its origins in a corner taken by Smith, but the fact that De Vries was able to lay the ball off for Hughes to bludgeon a volley beyond Robinson - via Dawson's thigh - owed more to sloppy defending than to training-ground practice.
Leicester appeared to have settled for a replay when Levein sent on a defensive player, Patrick Kisnorbo, for Smith. To Tottenham's dismay, no one had let Gudjonsson or De Vries in on the plot.
Goals: Jenas (20) 0-1; Stalteri (41) 0-2; Hammond (44) 1-2; Hughes (57) 2-2; De Vries (90) 3-2.
Leicester City (4-3-2-1): Douglas; Stearman, McCarthy, Johansson, Maybury; Hughes, Williams, Gudjonsson; Smith (Kisnorbo, 90), Hamill (Hammond, 35); De Vries. Substitutes not used: Henderson (gk), Hume, Dublin.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Stalteri, Dawson, Gardner, Kelly; Lennon (Tainio, 87), Jenas, Carrick, Brown (Defoe, 70); Keane, Rasiak. Substitutes not used: Cerny (gk), Pamarot, Routledge.
Referee: S Bennett (Kent).
Booked: Leicester City Maybury; Tottenham Hotspur Rasiak.
Man of the match: Hughes.
Attendance: 19,844.Reuse content