Where else to start than with the upsets?
They are what makes the FA Cup such a unique competition, and as ever the first involvement of Premier League sides brought some giant killings.
Oldham and Newport County led the celebrations today after beating Fulham and Leicester respectively, while Accrington Stanley, Gillingham, Barnet, Bristol City and Portsmouth all had wins over higher-placed teams to enjoy too.
Some results were less shocking than others and there were weakened teams on show, but all the talk of the FA Cup losing its magic is premature. There’s nothing else like it.
QPR banish their demons
Some clubs are said to be experts in cup competitions. Some are less good. Then there’s Queens Park Rangers, who have a reasonable claim to being the worst FA Cup side in recent history, having been knocked out at the first hurdle in 15 of their last 17 seasons.
Before today's tie at home to fellow Championship team Leeds United they had won just four FA Cup games in 20 years – all of which had required a replay. Not an auspicious context for QPR fans, but looking at Leeds’ team sheet they would have been cheered.
With Leeds top of the Championship and prioritising a promotion push, a weakened team allowed the hosts to reach the promised land with a deserved 2-1 win through Aramide Oteh’s penalty and Jake Bidwell’s header.
Now they’ve banished their demons can QPR push on and provide their fans with a cup run, or will the fourth round provide an all-too-familiar stumbling block?
No Woking wizardry
Television cameras and the country’s media descended on Woking, in pursuit of a classic cup-upset.
Woking, of the National League South, were the lowest-ranked team left in the competition, and with jovial Geordie boss Alan Dowson, commentator and assistant Martin Tyler and former manager, mastermind of previous upsets and current football secretary Geoff Chapple on board the story looked set.
But with 110 places separating the hosts and the Premier League’s Watford it was always going to be a tough ask at the Kingfield Stadium. Despite making 11 changes, in the event the visitors’ class shone through, with Will Hughes guiding home a worked corner before substitute Troy Deeney slotted in a second for a 2-0 win.
Although the result was straightforward, there was a good atmosphere and collective spirit in Surrey. “I am proud of the team, the fans and the volunteers,” said Dowson. “They gave it a go.”
Sadness for the Seasiders
It wasn’t all fun and games, however. The visit of Arsenal to Bloomfield Road yesterday evening provided a necessary spotlight on the plight of Blackpool.
Joe Willock scored twice as a much-changed Gunners side prevailed 3-0, but that was only half of the story.
The game only narrowly avoided delay after a Blackpool supporter prevented Arsenal’s team bus from leaving by sitting on its roof for 40 minutes.
To understand his actions, for which he was arrested, and why just 3,777 home fans turned up you need to consider the sorry state of the club.
Blackpool’s owner Owen Oyston has, in the words of a judge, “illegitimately stripped” the club, leaving them in a precarious financial position with huge debts. Oyston has stalled on a potential sale of the Seasiders and fans are trying to force the 85-year-old from his position by boycotting games.
Arsenal’s visit to a near-empty stadium should add to the outrage.
While neutrals are understandably hungry for romantic underdog success stories, there are always some mismatches that go the other way – but even so two score-lines still raised eyebrows.
With a title challenge to worry about Tottenham and Manchester City have bigger concerns than the world’s oldest cup competition, but they still flexed their muscles in 7-0 thrashings of Tranmere and Rotherham respectively.
A second-string Spurs set the bar high on Friday night with a Fernando Llorente hat-trick sending them through in style on Merseyside before a very strong City team flattened Rotherham.
“It was definitely an educational curve for the lads,” was how Rotherham boss Paul Warne summed it up. “Their slowest player is quicker than my quickest player.”
The balance between respecting the competition and minnow bullying is certainly a fine one.