WHO says the FA Cup doesn’t produce shocks anymore? For the first time since 2006, Newcastle United have made it to the fifth round of the competition. And as if that was not surprising enough, Mike Ashley, for so long an avowed hater of knockout tournaments, was at Oxford United’s Kassam Stadium to revel in Allan Saint-Maximin’s extra-time winner that spared his side’s blushes just as they look to be stumbling towards yet another embarrassing exit.

A fifth-round trip to West Brom awaits, offering the opportunity for Newcastle to reach the quarter-finals without encountering Premier League opposition. Having pledged to take the cup competitions seriously from the moment he was appointed Magpies manager at the start of the summer, Steve Bruce might never get a better opportunity to right so many decades of wrongs. Mind you, after last night’s drama, he will be taking nothing for granted.

Newcastle have made a habit of FA Cup humiliations in the last decade, losing to the likes of Stevenage Borough, Cardiff City and Brighton, not to mention Oxford, who saw off Rafael Benitez’s side in 2017. Last month’s goalless draw on Tyneside raised fears of a repeat, and having established a winning position thanks to first-half goals from Sean Longstaff and Joelinton, the Magpies capitulated spectacularly as they conceded two goals in the final six minutes.

Liam Kelly’s free-kick set nerves jangling, before Nathan Holland’s strike in the fourth minute of stoppage time threatened to send Newcastle into full-blown meltdown mode.

Extra-time was chaotic, with the Magpies spurning a flurry of chances to settle things, but just as a penalty shoot-out looked inevitable, Saint-Maximin struck with four minutes left, cutting in from the flank before hammering home a venomous long-range strike.

It was a brilliant winner, papering over the cracks that had appeared in the final stages of normal time. Lucky, resilient or just impossible to work out? Either way, Newcastle march on towards Wembley.

In fairness, their performance for much of their 90 minutes merited their victory, with their forward line finally clicking into gear during a one-sided first half. Not, however, that that improved attacking showing was sufficient to prevent their habit of self-implosion.

Steve Bruce’s tactical tinkering worked a treat for the opening hour or so, with the Magpies manager initially pushing Miguel Almiron alongside Joelinton to form a front two and encouraging Sean Longstaff to probe forward in an advanced attacking-midfield role behind the forward duo.

All three players flourished in the first half, with Joelinton clearly appreciating the extra support before he was forced off through injury, Almiron pulling Oxford’s centre-halves all over the place with his tireless running and unquenchable energy and the elder of the two Longstaff brothers relishing the extra attacking freedom he has rarely been afforded this season.

Newcastle created a flurry of first-half opportunities, and unlike in some of their previous outings, Bruce’s players displayed enough of a cutting edge to make the most of them. As a result, they scored two first-half goals for only the third time this season.

Sean Longstaff claimed the first, controlling Joelinton’s lay off on the edge of the area and calmly shuffling the ball onto his right foot before drilling a fierce finish past Simon Eastwood’s left hand.

Joelinton volleyed wide with the goal seemingly at his mercy as he met Nabil Bentaleb’s left-wing cross, but the much-maligned Brazilian made amends on the half-hour mark as he finally displayed the kind of composure that should be expected of a £40m striker.

Prior to kick-off, Joelinton had hit the TV gantry and a parked car as he warmed up in front of the Kassam Stadium’s open end, but when it mattered most, his radar was perfectly attuned.

Racing on to Sean Longstaff’s lofted ball over the Oxford defence, Joelinton held off Rob Dickie before slotting a slick finish into the bottom right-hand corner.

Newcastle would have scored a third goal before the break had Almiron not fired into the side-netting after he broke into the right-hand side of the penalty area, but while the Paraguayan should have scored, his miss did not appear costly at the time. Little did he or his team-mates know what was to follow.

Oxford served notice of their growing threat in the closing stages of the first half, creating two opportunities in the space of a minute that Newcastle did well to repel. Karl Darlow, seemingly established as Newcastle’s ‘cup goalkeeper’ ahead of Martin Dubravka, made a superb save after Jamie Mackie turned neatly inside the area, and after Sam Long drilled in a follow-up effort, Jamaal Lascelles made an equally-important intervention, nodding the ball away from the goalline.

Lascelles found himself playing between Fabian Schar and Florian Lejeune as Bruce shuffled his defensive pack, and for more than an hour, Newcastle’s back three remained reasonably untroubled.

With Oxford seemingly having run out of ideas, it appeared as though Newcastle were cruising into round five. Appearances can be deceptive though, and the Magpies twice shot themselves in the foot in the final six minutes of normal time.

Matt Ritchie was at fault for Oxford’s first goal, conceding possession as he attempted to dribble out of defence and then panicking as he brought down Dan Agyei close to the edge of the box. Kelly stepped up to curl a superb free-kick past Darlow, who might have felt he should have done better after getting a hand to the ball.

Suddenly, there was a surge of yellow breaking into Newcastle’s penalty area, and having cleared a couple of dangerous situations as the sense of panic increased, the visitors’ resistance crumbled in the final minute of stoppage time.

Newcastle’s defenders were unable to clear a routine long ball into the box, and after the ball was nodded into his path, Holland unleashed an excellent first-time volley that arrowed into the net.

That took the game into extra-time, and after a frantic spell of end-to-end action, Saint-Maximin settled things with a truly remarkable winner.

Picking up the ball close to the left touchline, the Frenchman cut infield and beat two Oxford defenders before rifling an unstoppable finish into the roof of the net. It was a goal fitting to win any game, but especially one as rip-roaring as this.