Burton Albion 0 Manchester United 0
Even the PA announcer reckoned it was optimistic in the extreme when he announced details of a possible replay 15 minutes before kick-off of the supposed biggest mis-match in this season's FA Cup.
There was a tinge of hope when he repeated the information at half-time.
And an unrelenting mix of delight and disbelief when, with Burton Albion's players celebrating the greatest result in the club's 55-year history, he confirmed the Brewers would next week enter the Theatre of Dreams.
Make a note: Wednesday January 18, kick off 8pm, Manchester United, record FA Cup winners, versus Burton Albion.
Rarely can a goalless draw have brought such an outpouring of emotion from the home fans. They were singing "We're proud of you" long before the final whistle but now they can exercise those vocal chords at the home of the most famous club in the world.
"Manchester United in a replay is absolutely superb for everybody," said Burton manager Nigel Clough.
"The first half was pretty even but in the second half we were under the cosh. I didn't fear the worst really but if Manchester United hit top form I knew they could put three or four past us.
"In the second half they got pretty close to it and seeing Wayne Rooney and Ronaldo coming off bench does get you worried."
Lightning, they say, doesn't strike twice but for the second year in succession United failed to overcome a Nationwide Conference side at the first time of asking in the third round.
And after Exeter City's pay-day last year and Burton's potential £750,000 income this term, Sir Alex Ferguson managed to joke afterwards that the Red Devils were doing their bit to keep the finances of the minnows in the black.
Not that the Old Trafford manager was smiling when he emerged from the away dug-out just half an hour into a veritable game of two halves to give the benefit of his wisdom to his underperforming stars.
"Better hide the tea-cups at half-time," quipped one wag in the stand.
You could talk about the dodgy pitch; you could mention Sir Alex fielding a mix-and-match United team, which still included seven internationals and the long-awaited return of captain-for-the-day Ole Gunnar Solksjaer; you could point to the disruption in losing Park Ji-sung with an injury in the warm-up.
But that would be making excuses when the truth was that in the first half Burton, led by the excellent Shaun Harrad up-front, were the better side.
Some 40 tonnes of sand had been dumped on the Pirelli Stadium in the week to try to solve drainage problems but life was anything but a beach for misfiring United.
Twice, the Brewers, 104 places behind United, were denied by goalline clearances. Right-back Phil Bardsley booted a Jon Shaw header off the line on 15 minutes and then the United youngster was well stationed to clear a header from home skipper Darren Stride just before half-time.
United, beaten in the Cup final last May, only threatened when Brewers centre-back Ryan Austin stepped in to nick the ball off Louis Saha and Bardsley sent a flashing half-volley just over.
But the second half signalled the arrival of £40 million-worth of super-subs in Rooney and Ronaldo. Put another way, two superstars whose transfer fees could build six Pirelli Stadiums.
Rooney made an instant impression with two goal-bound efforts saved by Saul Deeney, while Ronaldo's peach of a pass allowed Saha to head home but he was off-side.
The Brewers had a penalty appeal for a push of Keith Gilroy turned down and then a deflected shot from the Irish winger had keeper Tim Howard scrambling to gather just inside the left-hand post.
But it became non-stop one-way traffic as United charged forward. Every Burton clearance was greeted like the relief of Mafeking, every crunching tackle like an Andrew Flintoff six against Australia.
Tinson marshalled the back-line with unflappable composure to protect Deeney. But the keeper, who is on a month-to-month contract, saved the best until last when Saha nodded down and Ritchie Jones rifled in a shot from the edge of the area in injury-time. It seemed destined for the net until Deeney managed a terrific save with his feet.