Hull City 0 Aston Villa 1
One FA Cup win does not suddenly make Aston Villa a good cup team . . . but it's a start!
After four successive third-round exits, Villa kept their heads to put recent upsets at Doncaster Rovers, Sheffield United and Burnley behind them.
Given Villa's propensity for early exits, Hull City on a cold Saturday lunchtime a long way from home in front of the BBC cameras, had the words 'banana skin' written all over it.
But, thanks chiefly to the mood-killing lunchtime kickoff and a live television presence ensuring the KC Stadium's lowest crowd of the season, the atmosphere proved as flat as the Humberside landscape. Hull's comparative lack of fight produced an equally flat contest to match.
More importantly, Villa showed the battling qualities missing on such occasions in the past to earn a first away FA Cup win since the 2-1 quarter-final victory at Everton on the road to Wembley in February 2000.
Whether Wembley really is the ultimate destination at this season's end remains to be seen.
Appropriately, Gareth Barry, one of only three survivors from that cup run under John Gregory, scored the second-half goal that put his team in the fourth round hat.
It might so easily have been a different story had Barry given away what should have been a first-half penalty. In what proved so comfortable a passage, Villa still needed their fair share of luck.
The visitors were aided by Nick Barmby's late exclusion with a calf injury. As well as home left-back Andy Dawson leaving the KC Stadium on crutches after breaking a bone in his foot, the Tigers also lost main first-half threat Kevin Ellison at half time with concussion.
Peter Taylor, the Hull City manager, said: "Barmby hadn't trained since our game with Sheffield United on Wednesday night. And, the way he's playing, it was a blow not to have him."
More tellingly, there were four key incidents - two at either end - in a match that did not prove to be the BBC's plum live tie of the day. Despite the claims of David O'Leary, the Villa manager, that his team received no breaks the visitors had the luck on their side for three of them.
It might have been a different story had Juan Pablo Angel's early 'goal' counted.
Lee Hendrie dummied James Milner's left-wing cross, Angel appeared behind him to stick it away, and television evidence showed that the linesman's flag for offside was wrong.
But, from then on, Dame Fortune swapped sides, chiefly when Barry's clumsy challenge on Jason Price should have earned Hull a penalty. "The ref's not going to change his mind about it now," was all Taylor would say in response.
Villa goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen also had to keep out a close-range effort by former Birmingham City reserve striker Craig Fagan on the stroke of half time. Early in the second half came Villa's second lucky break when Leon Cort's header was somehow bundled off the line by Hendrie.
Hendrie said: "It bounced up and I thought 'bother, I'm not going to be able to clear this'. But I was able to volley it away."
That second narrow escape allowed Villa the confidence to go forward again to try to win the game.
Barry darted forward from his temporary home at left-back and beat two men as he cut in to have a go from the edge of penalty area. When he attempted a right-foot curler it deflected in off the luckless Cort - younger brother of the Wolves striker.
O'Leary said: "I don't know whether the keeper would have saved it anyway. But it was a little bit of fortune for us."
As far as his opposite number Taylor was concerned, it was more about missed tackles than misfortune.
He said: "It was a bad goal in every department of our team. Our centre-half got in front of our centre-forward from the clearance, then our midfield players defended as individuals and the back four didn't do too much about it either.
"The goalkeeper was probably the only one not at fault because he couldn't do anything about it."
Hull keeper Boaz Myhill, released from Villa just over two years ago, has proved a bargain buy for the Tigers at £50,000. Although Myhill had to make early saves from Hendrie and Steven Davis, O'Leary saw nothing to change his mind about letting him leave.
"He had to go from Villa," O'Leary said. "He wanted to do well for himself, to further his own career.
"As with any lad like that, you don't want them to have a disaster and I always felt there was a level for him to find and make a good living out of it."
Tigers chief executive Adam Pearson was on the board at Elland Road in the free-spending days O'Leary enjoyed at Leeds. As a result of their friendship, the Villa boss says that the Hull score is always one he looks for.
This one gave him and his team particular satisfaction, given the very public way O'Leary and his men were taken to the cleaner's after the Doncaster defeat.
He said: "A few lovely people came out of the woodwork after Doncaster. And I don't know where they've gone since.
"Constructive criticism you deserve but some of the stuff we had to put up with will be remembered.. And the only way to answer it is to do what we've been doing. The players have just let it fly over their heads and done their jobs.
"This club's record since getting to the final in 2000 has been a joke. But it was a win we were looking for and we won."