Chelsea striker Demba Ba struck twice on his debut as the FA Cup holders beat Southampton 5-1 in the third round on Saturday, while Robin van Persie’s majestic last-gasp equalizer salvaged a 2-2 draw for Manchester United at West Ham.
Senegal international Ba, signed from Newcastle United on Friday, scored the London side’s equalizer and their fourth before Frank Lampard’s late penalty took the midfielder to joint-second on Chelsea’s all-time scoring list with 193 goals.
Manchester United were staring at a 2-1 defeat at Upton Park after Joe Cole marked his return to east London by setting up two carbon-copy headers for James Collins after Tom Cleverley put United ahead.
With 90 minutes on the clock, substitute Van Persie rescued his side by controlling a 40m pass from Ryan Giggs and dispatching a lethal shot past goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen.
“You never rule out fighting back with our team, but certainly at 2-1 down with a couple of minutes to go you hope you get a break,” United manager Alex Ferguson said.
“The manner of the goal, with Ryan Giggs’s ball and Robin van Persie’s finish, was world class,” he said.
While Ba began in style, the gloom remained at his old club Newcastle, who lost 2-0 at Championship (second tier) Brighton & Hove Albion — one of several upsets on the day when England’s lower-ranked clubs traditionally take aim at the big boys.
Goals from Andrea Orlandi and Will Hoskins earned Brighton a repeat of their fourth-round victory over Premier League Newcastle last season, condemning Alan Pardew’s side to an 11th defeat in 14 matches.
Cardiff City, runaway leaders atop the Championship, were the biggest victims, losing 2-1 at minor league Macclesfield Town, while former FA Cup runners-up Luton Town, now outside the Football League, beat visiting Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0.
Wolves sacked Norwegian manager Stale Solbakken hours after the defeat.
Manchester City’s Mario Balotelli was a late substitute in their 3-0 home win over Gianfranco Zola’s Watford, a day after the controversial Italian striker was splashed across British newspapers grappling with manager Roberto Mancini.
Goals from Carlos Tevez, Gareth Barry and Marcos Lopez eased the English champions into the fourth round.
Tottenham Hotspur’s fine form continued with Clint Dempsey scoring twice in a comfortable 3-0 home win over third tier Coventry City, the side they lost to in the 1987 FA Cup final.
Several clubs struggling in the Premier League flirted with defeats against lower league opposition before earning replays.
Fulham were held 1-1 at home by second division Blackpool, Wigan Athletic needed a late equalizer in a 1-1 draw with third tier Bournemouth, and Sunderland recovered to earn a 2-2 draw at Bolton Wanderers, who lost their top-flight status last season.
Premier League Reading had to come from a goal down after one minute to beat third tier Crawley Town 3-1 away.
South coast seventh-tier minnows Hastings United, the lowliest survivors of the 758 clubs who began the 132nd edition of the world’s oldest knockout cup competition in August last year, had their fairytale cut short in a 4-1 defeat at Middlesbrough.
Additional reporting by staff writer