There was a shocked pause after the Norwich manager Nigel Worthington swept into the post-match press conference and announced: "He's gone."
Was it a reference to his coveted England under-21 forward Dean Ashton, mysteriously absent on the day and reported at one stage to be in the process of signing for Portsmouth?
Or was it a comment on his stricken keeper, Robert Green, who had ended a thoroughly unhappy afternoon by being carried off on a stretcher after an accidental collision with West Ham's Marlon Harewood? Surely to God he didn't mean...
Thankfully Green was reported to be on the mend yesterday after being detained overnight in hospital - that destination explained Worthington's comment - and thoroughly X-rayed.
But if Green's memory of this FA Cup third-round tie is hazy, it will probably be no bad thing for him given the mistake he made in dropping Matt Etherington's straightforward cross in the 57th minute and allowing Bobby Zamora to head home what turned out to be the decisive goal.
Zamora's twisting run and smart pull-back had set Hayden Mullins up with the chance to put the visitors ahead after just seven minutes of the match, and although Paul McVeigh's 70th-minute penalty allowed a seriously depleted Norwich side to remain in with a theoretical chance of salvaging a draw, such a result would have been a travesty.
Last season, at the same stage of the Cup, West Ham - then of the Championship, had beaten Norwich, then of the Premiership, at home. But with venues and status reversed there was to be no corresponding Cup upset, despite Norwich's recent spell of five successive wins and West Ham's relatively dismal Christmas showing.
Worthington got all red in the face when questioned over Ashton's absence, insisting testily that he was absent with a groin strain, and adding: "For all you disbelieving Thomases that think I'm telling porky pies, I have got a scan which proves he's done damage."
The former Northern Ireland international denied that there had been any offers for his reportedly unsettled striker, maintaining that unless there was a "crazy" offer he would be staying at Carrow Road.
His counterpart, Alan Pardew, was heartened by the way his men had responded after three successive Premiership defeats, and pleased by a promising 10 minutes from recently signed Israeli Yaniv Katan. "I told the players before the match that it had been a good season so far, but it could be a great one," he said. "We could finish higher in the League and have a great Cup run, if not win it. That's a realistic aim for us."
Goals: Mullins (7) 0-1; Zamora (57) 0-2; McVeigh (pen, 70) 1-2.
Norwich City (4-4-2): Green (Ward, 87); Jarvis (Cave-Brown, 90), Docherty, Fleming, Drury; Henderson, Etuhu, Jarrett (Spillane, 86), Charlton; McVeigh, Thorne. Substitutes not used: Shackell, Brennan.
West Ham United (4-4-2): Hislop; Repka, Gabbidon, Collins, Konchesky; Newton, Mullins (Fletcher, 67), Reo-Coker, Etherington (Dailly, 79); Harewood, Zamora (Katan, 80). Substitutes not used: Bywater (gk), Aliadière.
Referee: M Riley (West Yorkshire).
Booked: West Ham Dailly.
Man of the match: Zamora.
Attendance: 23,968.Reuse content