Lincoln boss Danny Cowley said guiding the Imps to the fifth round of the FA Cup was “beyond my wildest dreams”, as the non-league side once again stole the headlines on a day of high drama.
Lincoln’s 3-1 win over Championship leaders Brighton was just one chapter in an enthralling afternoon of football that also saw Wolves dump out Liverpool, Oxford upset Newcastle, and League Two Wycombe come agonisingly close to stunning Tottenham at White Hart Lane.
The fourth-round action led BBC Sport pundit Garth Crooks to proclaim the FA Cup “alive and well”.
“It was a magnificent day with some wonderful performances,” he said. “Wycombe were sensational, as were Lincoln.”
Red-hot Imps roll on
The last time Lincoln reached the last 16 of the FA Cup was in the 1901-02 season, a run that featured a victory over a cash-strapped team from the north-west of England named Newton Heath, who within weeks would be issued with a winding-up order before being saved and renamed Manchester United in April 1902.
I can’t believe the scenes and the emotion and the support
The fortunes of those two sides have differed wildly over the past 115 years, but Lincoln at least have the pleasure of knowing their place in the fifth-round draw on Monday evening is already assured, with holders United in action at Wigan on Sunday.
After dominating Ipswich in their third-round replay earlier this month, National League leaders Lincoln faced an altogether sterner task against in-form Brighton, who made nine changes for the game at Sincil Bank but nevertheless deservedly led at the break.
Chris Hughton’s visitors went in front through Richie Towell’s well-taken strike, but the hosts rallied after the break, levelling through Alan Power’s penalty before Fikayo Tomori’s own goal gave them the lead.
Theo Robinson, who scored twice at Ipswich in the third round, added the third on the break to confirm the Imps’ place in the next round.
“I’m surprised. It’s not often football surprises me, but today…” said Lincoln boss Cowley. “I was really pleased that we were able to stay in the game [after going behind].
“It’s surreal, and it’s been surreal for quite a period of time. The first Ipswich game, seeing those 5,000 away supporters and hearing the noise they made, from that moment onwards it’s been crazy – but a good crazy.
“I can’t believe the scenes and the emotion and the support.”
Son late show shatters Chairboys
It was a case of what might have been for brave Wycombe, who led 2-0 and 3-2 before succumbing to a heartbreaking 4-3 loss at White Hart Lane.
Son Heung-min’s stoppage-time winner rescued the Premier League side, who were rocked on their heels by Paul Hayes’ sweetly struck left-footed volley that put Wycombe ahead.
The captain grabbed his second from the spot to double the visitors’ lead before Son’s deflected effort on the hour and a Vincent Janssen penalty four minutes later pulled Spurs level.
Substitute Garry Thompson headed in Myles Weston’s cross with seven minutes to go to put Gareth Ainsworth’s side back in front, but Dele Alli pulled Spurs level again before Son scrambled in a late winner.
“The lads have done me and the town so proud,” Wycombe boss Ainsworth said.
“It was an outstanding effort from the boys. I am so proud, disappointed but it is now back to the reality of Exeter away.”
‘I am responsible for this performance’
At Anfield, Championship strugglers Wolves recorded a stunning 2-1 victory over a Liverpool side who have now managed only one win in eight games in 2017.
Richard Stearman put the visitors ahead after only 53 seconds, left unmarked to head in Helder Costa’s free-kick, before Costa set up Andreas Weimann to double Wolves’ lead before the break.
Divock Origi pulled one back but Paul Lambert’s men held on to reach the fifth round for the first time since 2008.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said: “I am responsible for this performance because I thought this line-up was ready for this game but obviously we weren’t and that doesn’t feel too good.
“I could look for excuses but I don’t want to. Maybe we should use this time to be disappointed, to be frustrated, to be angry at ourselves. All I can say, sorry.”
Oxford impress en route to ousting Magpies
League One Oxford reached the fifth round for the first time in 23 years with a 3-0 win over Championship promotion-chasers Newcastle.
Kane Hemmings met a Chey Dunkley back-post header to put Oxford ahead before Aleksandar Mitrovic missed the chance to level when his penalty was saved low down by Simon Eastwood.
Curtis Nelson added Oxford’s second before Toni Martinez sealed a famous win.
“I said to the players at half-time that they wouldn’t get a better opportunity to get into the last 16 of the FA Cup,” Oxford manager Michael Appleton said.
“For me personally, with the squad Newcastle have got, this surpasses beating Arsenal at Emirates Stadium when I was at Blackburn [in the fifth round four years ago]. That’s how big this is.
“It feels fantastic. It won’t be long before Newcastle are plying their trade in the Premier League and, with the squad they’ve got, they’ll be challenging in the top half, I believe.
“I think that belief really told in the last 15 minutes and I thought the players were magnificent.”