Newcastle United were humiliated 3-1 by League Two (fourth division) Stevenage on Saturday as four top-flight teams were knocked out by lowly opposition in the third round of the FA Cup.
Sunderland, West Bromwich Albion and Blackpool also went out as the world’s oldest cup competition maintained its reputation for upsets.
Arsenal almost made the tally five but Cesc Fabregas came off the bench to score a last-minute penalty to earn the 10-times winners a 1-1 home draw with Championship (second division) side Leeds United.
Thirteen years ago Stevenage, then a minor league club, took a Newcastle title-chasing team to a replay in an acrimonious fourth-round tie before the top-flight side eventually went on to reach the final.
Stevenage were deserved winners this time round as new Newcastle manager Alan Pardew paid a heavy price for resting several regulars.
Two goals in five minutes early in the second half by Mike Williamson (own goal) and Michael Bostwick gave the home team a 2-0 lead.
Newcastle then had Cheik Tiote sent off for a reckless challenge. Joey Barton pulled a goal back in the last minute before Peter Winn slammed the door shut with Stevenage’s third.
“They gave us a lot of problems with the pressure and physical side of their game,” Pardew told ESPN television. “I felt we were running on empty, we had four or five players who looked like they were shot (exhausted).
“I think there are a few in there that need to understand what this game is all about. In the Premier League it’s all well and good but a few of the young lads got caught out tonight.”
Sunderland, flying high in sixth position in the league and with a formidable home record, also fielded a weakened team and were beaten 2-1 at the Stadium of Light by Notts County who are struggling in League One.
Championship promotion-chasers Reading won 1-0 at home to hand West Brom their sixth successive defeat while League One Southampton overcame visiting Blackpool 2-0.
Bolton Wanderers, seventh in the Premier League, needed late goals from Kevin Davies and Johan Elmander to scrape past minor league York City 2-0 while Everton, Fulham, Wigan Athletic, Aston Villa, West Ham United and Birmingham City also progressed.
On Sunday, holders Chelsea entertain Ipswich Town while Kenny Dalglish’s first game back in charge of Liverpool could hardly be bigger as he takes his side to Old Trafford to face Manchester United.
Last year Manchester United lost at home in the third round to Leeds, then in League One.
The Yorkshiremen looked on course for another upset win at the Emirates in Saturday’s lunchtime kickoff when Denilson tripped Max Gradel in the 54th minute and Robert Snodgrass converted the penalty in front of 8,000 travelling fans.
Arsenal, unbeaten in 28 home FA Cup games since Leeds won at their old Highbury ground in 1997, threw on their big names in an effort to save the tie.
When substitute Theo Walcott was pulled back by Ben Parker up stepped Fabregas to stroke in a 90th-minute spot kick.
In stoppage time Kasper Schmeichel saved brilliantly from Denilson before Nicklas Bendtner had a fabulous chance to win it for Arsenal only to screw his shot badly wide.
“I felt today our game was a bit slow in our passing, we were not sharp in our decision-making, the rest is credit to Leeds. They stopped us from playing,” manager Arsene Wenger told the club’s website (www.arsenalfc.com).
“When Cesc comes on he has that vision so even if he is closed down he doesn’t have to run too much to make the game quicker.
“It was a very difficult game because it was a real Cup game and Leeds were up for it, they played well,” added Wenger. “It was important ... not to go out today because that would have been a shocker.”
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