Anyone who regards this result as another Premiership side falling victim to a half-hearted approach to the Worthington Cup can think again. Tottenham Hotspur, runners-up last February, went out of the competition last night and the result was as bona fide as any cup shock.
Spurs fielded a strong side, dominated the first half when they should have won the tie but succumbed to their First Division rival's revival. The disappointment in the body language of the Spurs players spoke eloquently of the importance the visitors attached to the defeat.
The more so because the outcome seemed inconceivable after the first 25 minutes when Spurs had taken a 1-0 lead through Gus Poyet's header and had a comfortable superiority that suggested an easy evening. Some comfort, because Burnley, suddenly alive where they had been supine, went through to the fourth round thanks to goals from Robbie Blake and captain Steve Davis.
"I didn't rant or rave at half-time, I was just normal," Stan Ternent, the Burnley manager, said as he tried to explain his side's contrasting halves. "I just asked them if they thought they could do it and the response was fantastic."
Burnley had prepared for this re-run of the 1962 FA Cup final byconceding 12 goals in three defeats and needed quickly to recall how to defend as Tottenham began with a real urgency that had the Burnley barricades creaking. They collapsed after 16 minutes when no one bothered to go with Poyet when he made his charge toward the near post from Stephen Carr's corner. The Uruguayan used his liberty to crack a fierce header past Marlon Beresford.
Burnley had barely figured but were transformed after the interval. Glen Little, an increasingly influence, cut in from the right after 56 minutes and passed to Blake, whose initial touch appeared too heavy but was more than made up for with his second, which crashed a shot past Kasey Keller. Four minutes later it was 2-1 when Davis rose above two Tottenham defenders to meet Graham Branch's corner, thumping his header low to Keller's right.
That set up a finale which veered from side to side with Blake hitting a Tottenham post after 63 minutes and Robbie Keane twice going through clear on the Burnley goal. The first he pulled wide but the second, after 76 minutes, ended almost embarrassingly as he lamely chipped the ball straight into Beresford's arms. Even then Tottenham could have taken the tie into an extra 30 minutes when Keane crashed a volley on to the bar in injury time.
"I can't believe what happened," Glenn Hoddle, the Spurs manager, said. "But no excuses. We should have won it having gone 1-0 up but every credit to Burnley, they deserved their win."
Burnley (4-4-2): Beresford; West, McGregor (Little, 26), Gnohere, Branch; Weller, Davis, Grant, Briscoe; Taylor, Blake (Papadopoulos, 84). Substitutes not used: Cook, I Moore, A Moore.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Keller; Carr, Perry, Gardner, Bunjevcevic; Davies, Clemence, Poyet, Etherington (Anderton, 60); Iversen (Doherty, 81), Ferdinand (Keane, h-t). Substitutes not used: Hirschfeld (gk), Acimovic.
Referee: D Gallagher (Banbury).