Tottenham's hopes of qualifying for Europe via the Coca-Cola Cup remained intact last night thanks to the last minute intervention of their monumental central defender, Sol Campbell.
The young England international stabbed home a close-range shot following Justin Edinburgh's long throw to allow his team to reach the fourth round for the first time in three years. They now travel to Bolton Wanderers.
Campbell's late surge - a minute before scoring he had forced Sunderland's goalkeeper Lionel Perez to make a point-blank save from a header - brought Tottenham a result which had seemed unlikely for most of the evening.
Had the Sunderland's ex-Spur, Paul Stewart, not skewed his shot excruciatingly wide five minutes from time, that result might have been different.
After a minute's silence had been honourably observed in memory of the late Chelsea vice-chairman Matthew Harding, a visiting team in the honest image of their manager, Peter Reid, set to work. They were deservedly rewarded by Kevin Ball's opener on the half-hour, a goal created by the enterprise of their 18-year-old forward Michael Bridges.
The gangling youngster, making his first start of the season, beat Edinburgh to a long ball, drew the keeper and then squared for Ball to drive in.
Tottenham responded with an urgency which had been missing from their earlier play, and Teddy Sheringham was twice thwarted before half-time, seeing one shot cleared off the line by Paul Bracewell and a 25-yard free kick tipped acrobatically away by Perez.
Sheringham betrayed his frustration after 53 minutes when he was booked for a rash challenge on the keeper, whose occasional extravagances - notably a pass across his area to a startled Richard Ord which caused sharp intakes of breath all round - provided Tottenham with continuing hope.
Perez could do nothing about the equaliser when it came in the 70th minute, however. Edinburgh's throw in from the left was flicked on by Sheringham and Rory Allen, a half time substitute for Allan Nielsen, contrived a stooping header which gave Chris Armstrong the opportunity of scoring from close range - albeit with a suspicion of handball.
Tottenham's manager, Gerry Francis, was clearly relieved to win after a first-half performance which he described as "indifferent to say the least. We gave ourselves a mountain to climb at half-time."
If it was Campbell who planted the Tottenham banner on the summit, the home side knew they had Edinburgh, Sheringham and David Howells to thank for the approach work.
Reid tried hard to be philosophical afterwards, and succeeded almost completely. "We've been done on two throw-ins," he said. "Besides that I thought we went about the job in the right sort of way. We'll get over it. Worse things happen at sea. I think."
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Carr, Calderwood, Campbell, Edinburgh; Fox, Nielsen (Allen, h-t), Howells, Wilson, Sheringham, Armstrong. Substitutes not used: Bardsen (gk), Nethercott.
Sunderland (4-4-2): Perez; Hall, Ord, Melville, Kubicki; Kelly, Bracewell, Ball, Gray; Bridges (Russell, 70), Stewart. Substitutes not used: Rae, Howey.
Referee: M Reed (West Midlands).Reuse content