An afternoon of raw emotion and ripe language, of strikers returning to haunt and strikers haunted by misses, of injuries rather than the expected insults. There had been well-grounded fears over how the visiting supporters would react to Harry Redknapp and Jermain Defoe, and the home fans to Sol Campbell. And that's without mentioning three other Portsmouth players returning against their former club and Tony Adams, of course, an Arsenal legend on the White Hart Lane touchline.
It seemed, beforehand, a case of who to boo and how to boo. At the end there were also muted jeers from the frustrated Spurs fans but that was because, after an exhilarating, high-energy, incident-strewn encounter their team only came away with a draw and have now collected just three points from their last six games. Victory eluded them, but it was a precious point, lifting them from 20th to 16th place on goal difference.
Not that it was enough for Redknapp, even if he later hailed his team's "character" and pledged that there was "no fear" that they would be relegated. Twice in the second half, however, he wheeled away in despair, disgusted at bad misses by his strikers. The first, a header placed the wrong side of the post by substitute Darren Bent after he was picked out by another replacement, David Bentley, was simply ghastly. He had space, time and surely had to score from just six yards. "I think my missus could have scored it," Redknapp said. It was one to remember, or rather forget. Redknapp had walked halfway down the tunnel and his expletive-flecked language did not bear repeating.
The second came when Defoe slid a shot beyond the other post and the sanitised version of how Redknapp responded to that was: "How many chances are we going to miss?" The answer was: a lot.
To add injury to that insult Spurs lost two players, although Redknapp's reaction was contrasting. Roman Pavlyuchenko was carried off with ankle damage after being hacked down by Sean Davis but Redknapp said, in a telling comment on the Russian's questionable commitment, "it's not too serious. He should be OK tomorrow", while Ledley King limped away with a torn hamstring. Redknapp said it would be a "long-term" injury. Furthermore, the goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes, wincing after every movement, was nursing a groin strain and couldn't kick, Aaron Lennon had a similar complaint and Vedran Corluka was struggling with a hurt thigh. "The physios wanted to take them all off at half-time," Redknapp claimed.
Spurs are certainly a wounded animal right now, a troupe of walking wounded. Redknapp's efforts to bolster his squad, beyond the £15m-plus signing of Defoe from his former club, have so far floundered and he looks a mixture of frustration and anger with a back-up goalkeeper, in particular, desperately needed as he has no faith in Gomes's present deputy, Cesar Sanchez. And that showed.
But there were so many storylines, so many intertwined personal histories. The goals summed up the harum-scarum game and goodness knows what thoughts crossed Redknapp's mind when David Nugent, the £6m misfit he signed for Portsmouth from Preston, rarely given a chance before Adams sold Defoe, scored his first Premier League goal. It came in the second half after Corluka had tackled Armand Traoré, with the ball running to Nugent, who struck a fierce shot from the corner of the penalty area which clipped off the hapless Gareth Bale to squeeze past Gomes.
Nugent had missed a clear opportunity in the first period, one-on-one with Gomes, who saved with his outstretched foot, and his goal came just 19 seconds after David James, again, had saved brilliantly from Lennon, adjusting himself to push away a shot that deflected off Younes Kaboul and appeared set to beat him. James was at his best. He watched as Defoe missed a simple chance in the opening minutes after being gifted the ball by Davis, slamming a shot wide, but then tipped over his former team-mate's header before scrambling away another and twice more thwarted Lennon.
Portsmouth also threatened and Adams declared himself pleased, even if he could not resist a swipe at Defoe. "I took the decision that it wanted a group of lads who are pulling together," he said about the sale of the striker. Adams is edging towards that, but, desperately needs reinforcements.
Corluka superbly blocked Traoré's shot and Gomes recovered to tip the ball away from the onrushing Peter Crouch, after he had spilt Glen Johnson's shot. Once ahead, Portsmouth retreated and Spurs, desperately, poured forward.
It was inevitable it would be Defoe, on his home debut, following the limp display at Wigan, who scored and even if his shot, through Campbell's legs, from Luka Modric's pass, was crisp he was fortunate that James was unsighted. Spurs spurned two more clear chances and the points were shared. "They were hanging on for grim life at the end," Redknapp said. But hang on they did and deservedly so.
Goals: Nugent (59) 0-1; Defoe (70) 1-1.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Gomes; Corluka, King (Dawson, 44), Woodgate, Bale (Bentley, 68); Lennon, Zokora, Modric, O'Hara; Pavlyuchenko (Bent, 30), Defoe. Substitutes not used: Alnwick (gk), Huddlestone, Campbell, Taarabt.
Portsmouth (4-4-1-1): James; Johnson, Campbell, Distin, Belhadj; Nugent (Utaka, 73), Kaboul (Wilson, 88), Davis, Traoré; Kranjcar (Hreidarsson, 90); Crouch. Substitutes not used: Begovic (gk), Pamarot, Little, Kanu.
Booked: Portsmouth Davis, Kaboul.
Referee: S Bennett (Kent).
Man of the match: James.
For Premier League highlights, click here .