It was Milan Baros who scored twice to send Aston Villa into the fifth round of the FA Cup but just as significant was the 20-minute role played by Kevin Phillips.
David O'Leary hailed the return of Phillips, whose impact as a substitute was the difference between victory over Port Vale on Saturday and a replay.
Villa lost to Doncaster Rovers in the League Cup in November and, nervous and unsure of themselves, were unable to break Port Vale down for 70 minutes.
But Phillips, who has been sidelined for two months with an ankle injury, came off the bench in place of Juan Pablo Angel, and his first touch set up the opening goal for Baros.
Baros struck twice before Vale reduced the arrears through Nathan Lowndes, but Steven Davis sealed the tie with a headed goal in stoppage time.
"It was good to have Kevin back," O'Leary said. "He is a really good player and there is no doubt that we have missed him. It was lovely to have a senior player like him on the bench to be able to call upon instead of having kids. He quickly made his presence known.
"He has done well for us and is somebody I wish I could have signed a couple of years ago. Having him back will give us competition up front."
Angel, lacking confidence and seemingly unable to fit into the Villa style, is the player under threat from the return to fitness of Phillips. Baros has become the striker around which this team is built.
"Milan is a threat and will score goals," O'Leary said. "That is the type of striker he is. Sometimes they might not do much but they are always there in the box. Michael Owen is the same at times but you judge them on their goals.
"Anyone with the pace of Milan is a threat. He will enjoy the way we play and will get his chances."
O'Leary felt Villa were in command of the game throughout, although in fairness Vale matched them for lengthy periods and the outcome might have been different had Leon Constantine not s quandered a golden chance before the deadlock had been broken.
Martin Foyle, the Port Vale manager, felt his side could have snatched a replay after a grandstand finish that saw his team squander good chances.
"Sean Doherty had a couple of good opportunities and, on another day, the shots might have gone in. We played well and could have got something."