Paolo di Canio"s passion rescues the FA Cup

Paolo's passion saves the day! Di Canio's verve and wardrobe rescue the FA Cup

When a day longer than his sideburns had finally drawn to a close it was Paolo di Canio who supplied the enduring image.

With leather-gloved fingers pointing to the heavens and a snug olive-green jacket fastened over his scarf he may have looked like a TV cop from the early Eighties but this was a moment of pure FA Cup passion.

Good old, slightly bonkers Paolo, posturing on the touchline to remind the nation that few moments in football can generate emotion quite like a genuine FA Cup upset.

Sky's the limit: Di Canio produced one of the shocks of the day by beating Wigan

Sky's the limit: Di Canio produced one of the shocks of the day by beating Wigan

Fourth tier beat first at the County Ground, one of four shocks (the others: Crawley, Notts County and Stevenage) on a day which had opened in mind-numbing fashion at St Andrew’s.

Seriously, who at ESPN thought Birmingham versus Wolves was a good place to start, with its weakened teams and empty seats

‘Nil-nil was inevitable,’ said Blues defender Curtis Davies. Really If only he’d told us sooner.

The day’s other early kick-off passed without a goal, although this was a terrific effort by Dagenham and Redbridge, who slipped to 90th in football’s pyramid during the day but can look forward to a trip to, ahem, Millwall.

Three o’clock approached, team news emerged and it was hard not to feel a pang of sadness for this noble trophy.

Does anyone care any longer

Tottenham, the only one of the top six in action, made 10 changes, wary of Wednesday’s game against Everton in the Barclays Premier League.

Second string: Tottenham rested 10 players for their win over Cheltenham

Second string: Tottenham rested 10 players for their win over Cheltenham

Cardiff changed 10 and Crystal Palace seven ahead of their meeting in the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final on Tuesday.

The numbers on Palace’s shirts added up to more than 300, according to someone on Twitter.

Wigan made nine changes and they don’t play again until next Monday.

Of the two TV companies with rights to the action, one showed Catwoman and the other a documentary on baseball as Matt Le Tissier and Charlie Nicholas watched League Two football in Sky’s Soccer Saturday studio.

I WON'T CRY FOR CITY

MK Dons boss Karl Robinson said Roberto Mancini’s comments about struggling to field a team were ‘embarrassing’

Some despair was chased away during the next two hours as 73 goals were scored in the 23 ties that kicked off at 3pm with Wigan, Reading, Bristol City and Doncaster humbled by opposition from lower leagues.

The FA Cup made its case for staying alive during the 21st century as Vinnie Jones – a Wembley winner in 1988 – taught the nation how to administer ‘Hands Only CPR’ to the sounds of the Bee Gees during the ad breaks.

John Murray conjured classic images on BBC 5 Live with his wonderful commentary on a thrilling tie and a party atmosphere at Moss Rose, where Macclesfield held Bolton.

Thriller: Macclesfield held Bolton to 2-2 draw

Thriller: Macclesfield held Bolton to 2-2 draw

‘There are almost 2,000 Bolton fans in there and I can see a crocodile at the front,’ said Murray, straining to be heard above the din of an old-style wooden rattle, just as BBC World Service listeners joined the broadcast.
Macc Town were going global and they did not disappoint.

MUM'S THE WORD

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In Kent, Gillingham chairman Paul Scally had set the tone by re-opening a festering feud with Tony Pulis, saying the only place he wanted to bury a hatchet was in the Stoke manager’s head.

‘I’ll never forgive Tony Pulis,’ said Scally, who sacked the visiting manager in 1999 for gross misconduct, on Sky before the match. ‘He affected me, my family and this football club.’

Gills took the lead but Stoke fielded a strong team (funny that) and Premier League power proved too great.

Other dreams were wrecked early. Tamworth responded to a Football Focus pep-talk from Sportsmail’s Martin Keown by leaking a goal in five minutes at Everton from which they would never recover.

Cheltenham conceded early at Tottenham and Fleetwood and Salisbury slipped behind. /01/08/article-2083948-0F5EB57800000578-625_468x286.jpg” width=”468″ height=”286″ alt=”Upset: Stevenage shocked Reading” class=”blkBorder” />

Upset: Stevenage shocked Reading

Wrexham are the only non-Leaguers into the fourth round draw, fighting back at Brighton with a goal which triggered a glorious passage of FA Cup romance.

It was 4.23pm when the Blue Square Premier leaders levelled with a goal from Adrian Cieslewicz.

Within a minute, Arnaud Mendy had fired Macclesfield 2-1 up and by 4.26pm MK Dons were beating Queens Park Rangers 1-0 with a Dean Bowditch goal.

WILSON IS WAITING…

Sheffield United boss Danny Wilson is braced for a bid for striker Ched Evans, who scored against Salisbury Town

Paul Benson pounced for Swindon’s winner at 4.34pm, roughly the same time Matt Tubbs was scoring for Crawley against Bristol City and Jeff Hughes scored his second for Notts County at Doncaster.

Then, the Premier League hit back. David Wheater equalised for Bolton with 13 minutes left and Heidar Helguson eased pressure on Neil Warnock with two minutes to spare.

Fulham (full strength) crushed League One leaders Charlton at Craven Cottage as Danny Murphy’s wife Joanna Taylor used Twitter to report how abuse from visiting fans forced her and son Ethan to seek refuge in the directors’ box.

Alleged abuse: Danny Murphy's wife used Twitter to complain about Charlton fans

Alleged abuse: Danny Murphy's wife used Twitter to complain about Charlton fans

Only two top-flight clubs would crash out on Saturday. Wigan, at Swindon, and Blackburn, who took the lead at Newcastle but lost to a goal from Jonas Gutierrez in the 94th minute.

CRAWLEY ARE AT IT AGAIN

Will Crawley Town reach the fifth round again, a year after losing to Manchester United at the same stage

On BBC’s Final Score, Mark Chapman winced on behalf of Steve Kean when Gutierrez scored. The most anguished of callers on the evening’s radio phone-ins supported Wigan and Ipswich (beaten 3-1 at Hull), while Bristol Rovers’ defeat seemed to be going down well at the Memorial Stadium, where John Barnes and Kevin Keegan predicted Aston Villa’s easy win.

Barnes pointed out that the upsets are usually produced by small teams in form, not the likes of Rovers, who prepared for their big day on live television by sacking manager Paul Buckle.

It is an era where the elite have more money, bigger squads, fitter players, better facilities and more thorough preparation techniques. There should be fewer shock results yet complacency still eats away in different forms.

Perhaps it comes from the manager who makes changes and sends a subliminal message around his players – and if a slip like this collides with a spirited team, it will produce sparks.

This is the FA Cup staying alive without the need for CPR, thanks to Di Canio and his ilk.