Jermain Defoe spared his own blushes and those of Tottenham Hotspur with a hat-trick at Elland Road to help Harry Redknapp's side overcome a brave Leeds United and book a place in the FA Cup fifth round at the second time of asking with a 3-1 win on Wednesday.
England striker Defoe missed a host of good chances but still managed to come up trumps for the Premier League side with strikes in the 37th and 73rd minutes before putting the result beyond all doubt in the fourth minute of stoppage time to take his tally for the season to 22 goals. Luciano Becchio had equalised for Leeds on the stroke of half-time as Simon Grayson's League One side threatened to pull off another shock in front of a partisan home crowd.
But Defoe secured a trip for Tottenham to top-flight rivals Bolton in the last 16 and kill-off the cup dreams of Leeds, who had knocked Manchester United at Old Trafford out of the competition in stunning style in the previous round. "That was a difficult game," Defoe told ITV Sport. "Away from home it was a great performance from the lads."
David Bentley, who has struggled to nail down a place in Spurs' starting line-up, orchestrated the visitors' victory and Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp said: "He has come back and taken his opportunity. He has shown what a good player he is in the last couple of games and he needs to keep on doing that."
Meanwhile, Leeds boss Grayson was in upbeat mood despite the defeat. "We've just said to the players we've got to take a lot positives. We have given Tottenham two good games. Our main aim is to get promotion and play in front of 30,000 every week."
Redknapp made three changes from the side held to a draw by Birmingham last weekend, recalling Jermaine Jenas, Sebastien Bassong and Niko Kranjcar to his starting line-up. Ledley King was rested and both Wilson Palacios and Luka Modric dropped to the bench. This was a game Redknapp was desperate to win, given it represented his side's last realistic chance to win some silverware this season.
Tottenham arrived at Elland Road in confident mood as well, having lost just one of their last 10 games in all competitions. Yet his starting line-up proved just how much Redknapp respected Leeds, despite their being 42 league places separating the two clubs. He knew to his cost from the first tie at White Hart Lane, which ended in a 2-2 draw, just what Grayson's men were capable of.
It was Tottenham who dominated the first half and they would have been home and hosed before the interval had it not been for some woeful finishing from Defoe. He could have had a hat-trick but continued to let Leeds off the hook.
Defoe pounced on a weak back header from Andrew Hughes in the first minute but fluffed his shot badly. He then pounced on a clever chest down from Peter Crouch only to see his instant strike fly inches wide.
Worse was to follow from Defoe, who found himself clean through on goal thanks to Jermaine Jenas's hopeful pass in the 24th minute but with just Casper Ankergren to beat he was unable to get the better of the Danish goalkeeper. Leeds' luck ran out in the 37th minute when Defoe latched onto David Bentley's cross and turned sharply, only for his shot to slice luckily beyond Ankergren and into the top corner.
But Leeds, whose resilience was a feature of their cup run, hauled themselves level when Heurelho Gomes could only palm Jermaine Beckford's instant volley straight into the path of Becchio, who shot into an open goal. Redknapp's men continued to pile the pressure on Leeds, however, with Defoe blazing just over the crossbar and Crouch wasting Niko Kranjcar's cross when it seemed easier to score.
Ankergren was also in fine form and produced another stunning save to tip over Michael Dawson's glancing header just before the hour mark before doing the same to a powerful drive from the impressive Bentley as Leeds hung on. But he was powerless to prevent Bentley's cross from finding Defoe in the 73rd minute and this time the forward made no mistake before adding a third in stoppage time.