Unfancied Oldham dispatched Liverpool 3-2 in a thrilling FA Cup tie which capped off an incredible FA Cup Sunday with the best match of the entire round. Sitting in 19th place in League One, Oldham should have been blown off the pitch by their Premier League opponents. Instead, they twice took a late and were able to hold out against a late onslaught to make it through to the fifth round.
If Liverpool were hoping for a bright start, they didn't get it. Within two minutes the hosts were ahead. Sebastian Coates was bullied -- and possibly fouled -- in the penalty box, and that allowed Oldham striker Matt Smith to nod home from very close range with Brad Jones more or less helpless.
The old adage about scoring too early came to mind a quarter of an hour later when Luis Suarez, captaining the side in the absence of Steven Gerrard, brought Liverpool to life when he drove towards Dean Bouzanis' area, played a probably-inadvertant one-two with a defender, and then slammed home a right-footed equaliser.
It was a lovely strike, and being pegged back so easily should have broken Oldham's resistance, but the hosts back line held, and they were given an absolute gift by the Reds just before halftime. A low cross directed straight at Brad Jones could have come to nothing, but the goalkeeper somehow managed to parry the ball into his own face before presenting the ball to Lee Croft.
From a tight angle, Croft couldn't score, but the entire Liverpool back line raced towards him and left Smith free at the far post. A simple pass and an even-simpler finish put the League One side back in front -- and they weren't done there.
Fabio Borini wasted a superb chance to equalise before Oldham struck again. Once more, the Liverpool back line was eviscerated, and a deep cross from Carl Winchester found the imposing form of Reece Wabara at the back post. The angle was tight, but Wabara's header was utterly perfect, fizzing over Jones, hitting the underside of the crossbar and then making its way into the side netting for a 3-1 lead.
The heavens opened at Boundary Park, and Brendan Rodgers sent out reinforcements into the pouring rain. On went Steven Gerrard and Stewart Downing, forcing the hosts into some last-ditch defending as they were put under intense pressure. Both Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge had seemingly reasonable penalty shouts turned down by Lee Probert, and Gerrard drew a series of flying blocks from Oldham's defence.
But after half an hour, the visitors made the breakthrough they needed. A needless corner was conceded, and the clearance only made it as far as Joe Allen, lurking with intent at the top of the box. The midfielder let loose with a cracking volley that seemed destined for the bottom left corner -- until it took a big, looping deflection and found itself nestling in the other corner instead.
A tense match got even tenser now that Liverpool were a goal away from snatching a replay. Gerrard came within inches of bringing the score to 3-3 when he thumped a long-range effort that beat Bouzanis before cannoning back off the cross bar. Whenever Oldham had the ball they lumped it desperately forward only to see it fired right back down their collective throats.
It looked impossible for the minnows to hold out. But somehow, they did. Liverpool are out, and Oldham make it to the fifth round. Incredible.