PENALTY specialist Thomas Sorensen pulled off the crucial save which booked Stoke City's passage through to the fourth round of the Carling Cup . . . after their Britannia Stadium tie against Tottenham Hotspur went to a dramatic shoot-out.
The big Danish international goalkeeper, who has an oustanding record when it comes to saving penalties, dived low to his right to push away a tame shot from Spurs substitute Massimo Luongo to give City a hard-earned 7-6 triumph.
Only Jermaine Pennant and Roman Pavlyuchenko had missed their spot kicks up until that decisive moment with all the other penalty-takers showing a cool nerve in the shoot-out to decide who would progress through to Saturday's fourth round draw.
But City always felt that Sorensen would be the key when it went to penalties and he certainly lived up to expectations with the all-important save.
Prior to that drama, the game itself had been a dull affair with very few clearcut chances for either side, making extra-time and penalties seem inevitable.
Robert Huth, who had been made captain on the night in the absence of Ryan Shawcross, went the closest to breaking the deadlock on two occasions with a twisting header in the first half and then a low drive which Heurelho Gomes could only push out.
As expected, Pulis made a number of changes, but his starting line-up still looked a strong one in contrast to the fact that Tottenham had many of their big names absent.
The opening exchanges of the game were fairly uneventful as both sides probed for an opening although Etherington found the space to deliver a cross from the right.
At the other end, the first sign of danger created by Tottenham saw Dos Santos produce an electrifying burst to the edge of the box, but fortunately Upson had read the situation well and cut out Van der Vaart's attempted pass to the youngster.
There was a blow for City in the early stages of the game when Jones went down with what appeared to be a hamstring injury and he had to be replaced by Crouch.
The Potters' best opportunity of the half came from a corner shortly after that substitution as Etherington delivered his cross from the right hand side and Huth sent a twisting header flashing over the bar from close range with Gomes well beaten.
It was Etherington who teed up another chance after linking up well with Wilson raiding down the left flank, but although both Jerome and Crouch got flicks on the cross into the middle, it didn't fall for Pennant at the far post and Spurs were able to clear.
The half ended with Spurs carving out an opening as Pavlyuchenko burst down the right and dragged the ball back for Carroll, advancing into the box, to fire over the bar.
Tottenham went a lot closer to breaking the deadlock shortly after the break when Van der Vaart was instrumental in setting up a chance for Livermore who turned onto his left foot and curled a shot beyond the reach of the diving Sorensen but just wide of the post.
The visitors were enjoying more of the possession after the break and there was another scare for City when Pavlyuchenko found the space 25 yard from goal to unleash a stinging left foot shot which Sorensen managed to push over the bar at full stretch.
With the Potters struggling to get going in the second half, Spurs were awarded a free kick in a dangerous position when Huth pulled down Van der Vaart right on the edge of the box but the Dutchman dragged the free kick wide of Sorensen's left hand post.
The crowd were lifted, however, when Etherington launched a ball into the box and it took some heroics from Gomes to prevent Jerome and the Crouch from scoring as one after the other both strikers attempted to apply the finishing touch with their heads.
City made their second change of the night when Palacios was withdrawn and Diao came on in his place, one which seemed a tactical move with Saturday in mind.
Shortly after his introduction, the Potters were awarded a free kick when Jerome was bundled over and Pennant's attempt at goal took a deflection and flew over the bar.
Pulis then made his final change of the night, a straight swap with Walters coming on for Jerome, but the game was drifting agonisingly towards extra time.
City did, however, offer some encouragement that they could snatch a late winner by pushing forward with increased confidence, but too often the final ball let them down and that was highlighted when Pennant failed to get in a cross from a good position after he had slipped the attention of Assou-Ekotto to burst into the box.
As the game drifted towards extra time, Diao burst into the box on two occasions, in the first instance to try and latch onto Crouch's knock down and then in an attempt to get his head to Shotton's cross but on both occasions brave defending cleared the danger. Both Diao and Kaboul needed treatment after the second clash.
There was a good opportunity for City to get their noses in front in the early stages of extra time when Huth unleashed a thunderbolt which Gomes couldn't hold onto, but Crouch had a tight angle from which to force home the rebound and couldn't make it count.
The Potters laboured in their attempts to try and build upon that encouraging moment, but in the final minute of the first period of extra time, they conjured an excellent opening with some quick thinking from Pennant who slipped a free kick into the path of Walters bursting forward but he slid his shot past Gomes and wide of the far post.
Like the first 90 minutes, there had been only a couple of moments when a goal seemed likely and nothing changed after the restart in extra time.
It was City who were having slightly the better of things, but with the exception of a free kick and a corner sent over by Pennant, a goal seemed a long way off.
With time ticking away, Pennant whipped another free kick into the box, but although the delivery was good it couldn't find the head of a City player, while Etherington had one final run forward to the edge of the box but his final shot was high and wide.
That pretty much summed up the game as referee Probert blew his final whistle and took the third round tie to what proved to be a dramatic penalty shoot-out.
Suddenly the crowd burst to life as both Walters and Defoe kept their cool by converting the first two penalties, but then Pennant rattled the bar with the next one.
But that was evened out by Pavlyuchenko blazing his shot over the bar, after which Whelan and Townsend both converted their spot kicks in a convincing manner.
The sequence then continued: Wilson (3-2), Corluka (3-3), Crouch (4-3), Kaboul (4-4) Etherington (5-4), Livermore (5-5), Upson (6-5), Carroll (6-6), Shotton (7-6) and finally Luongo had his tame shot well-saved by Sorensen moving to his right.