Newcastle United survived a huge scare against League One Oxford United before Allan Saint-Maximin’s spectacular winner late into extra time secured their place in the FA Cup fifth round for the first time since 2006.
Steve Bruce’s side looked to be cruising to victory as they protected a two-goal lead given to them before half-time courtesy of Sean Longstaff’s rising 15th-minute drive and Joelinton’s composed finish for only his third goal of the season.
Oxford gave themselves hope with seven minutes left when Liam Kelly’s 20-yard free-kick eluded the grasp of Newcastle keeper Karl Darlow before Nathan Holland’s crisp volley deep into stoppage time set up the extra 30 minutes and the prospect of a shock.
The unpredictable Saint-Maximin was the difference and a huge threat in extra time, finally winning it for Newcastle and setting up a fifth-round tie at West Bromwich Albion with a magnificent finish that ripped beyond Simon Eastwood into the top corner after 116 minutes.
Saint-Maximin makes his mark
Newcastle United needed something out of the ordinary to halt Oxford United’s remarkable recovery that saw Karl Robinson’s League One promotion chasers turn the game on its head in the closing minutes.
The Magpies looked to be closing out a comfortable victory despite Oxford’s endeavour but they were rocked on their heels by Kelly and Holland.
Oxford started the extra period with a spring in their step but the sheer pace and wild unpredictability of Saint-Maximin, whose power also altered the momentum as Oxford ran out of steam, provided the X-Factor.
The 22-year-old French forward, on as a first-half substitute for injured Joelinton, is an adventure every time he is in possession, mixing madcap losses of control and frustrating moments with a genuine match-winning touch.
And how he came good in that vital extra period, drawing fine saves from Oxford keeper Eastwood before producing that decisive contribution with a fierce shot that broke the hearts of the home side and spared Newcastle’s blushes as they threatened to throw away a game they had under their control.
The Toon Army celebrated at the final whistle – and the toast was Saint-Maximin.
Oxford take pride – now for promotion
Oxford manager Robinson described this FA Cup fourth-round replay as “a free hit” but he and his players will still be bitterly disappointed to come so close to penalties only to be thwarted by a moment of brilliance from Saint-Maximin.
The Yellows have had some fine moments at Kassam Stadium this season, notably when West Ham United were thrashed 4-0 in the Carabao Cup and Manchester City were pushed all the way before winning 3-1 here in the quarter-final.
It looked for a while as if Oxford would slip away without giving Newcastle serious anxiety but how they battled and how their fans responded as they started extra time looking the more confident side after that tumultuous finale.
It was not to be but Oxford can take real pride from the resilience they showed here and now they can turn their attention back to their top priority, namely promotion to the Championship.
Manager Robinson is struggling for numbers after the departure of Shandon Baptiste and Tariqe Fosu to Brentford on transfer deadline day but there is real talent within his squad and this is a developing side.
Oxford are currently eighth in League One, three points off the play-off places, and now it is back to business on that front as they travel to Peterborough United, who are third in the table, on Saturday.
Man of the match – Allan Saint-Maximin (Newcastle)
Replay joy again for Newcastle – the stats
- Newcastle have won their last five FA Cup replays, scoring 17 goals across those victories.
- They have reached the fifth round of the competition for the first time since the 2005-06 season, when they were eventually knocked out at the quarter-final stage by Chelsea.
- Newcastle’s Joelinton both scored and assisted in the same game for the first time since January 2019 for Hoffenheim against Freiburg in the Bundesliga.
- Team-mate Sean Longstaff also scored and assisted in the same game for the first time since November 2017 for Blackpool in the EFL Trophy against Middlesbrough Under-21s.
Oxford travel to Peterborough in League One on Saturday, 8 February (15:00 GMT) while Newcastle return to action after the winter break with a trip to Arsenal in the Premier League on Sunday, 16 February (16:30).
Article courtesy of BBC Sport