The visit of Premier League giants Tottenham Hotspur brought a first start in a Carlisle shirt for Kallum Higginbotham as the Cumbrians remained otherwise unchanged from their impressive weekend performance at Coventry.
A quick tally-up before kick off revealed that the worth of the Spurs starting line-up was somewhere in the region of £33 million as Andre Villas-Boas went for a strong spine and a smattering of flair in a bid to avoid a potential banana skin at Brunton Park.
But it was Carlisle United who caught the eye for long periods as they put reputation to one side to take the game to their illustrious visitors until a second half goal took the wind from the sails and eased the Premier League big boys into the fourth round.
In-form Danny Cadamarteri was a constant thorn in the side and his link-up play with new arrival Kallum Higginbotham looked the likeliest avenue for success as the home side passed their way around the park.
Spurs had to stay patient as they attacked in fits and starts but summer signing Clint Dempsey should have broken the deadlock when Townsend recovered a punched clearance from Gillespie. The cross fell nicely for the American international but his free header lacked conviction.
Dempsey was guilty of a glaring missing just before the half hour when Gillespie raced off his line to block Mason. The ball spun into the path of the striker but long-serving Blue Danny Livesey took a place on the goal line and made the block.
Carlisle continued to give as good as they were getting without quite managing to fashion a clear-cut opening and a set piece was their undoing when Sigurdsson swung a peach of a free kick into the box. Jan Vertonghen used his physical presence to wriggle free and guide the ball into the net.
Matt Robson hesitated with the ball on his wrong foot as United piled forward and Dawson had to intervene to head the ball over his own bar when a Cadamarteri thunderbolt angled for the top corner.
An overlap from Higginbotham was ignored by Cadamarteri early in the second half and the Cumbrians were left to rue the moment as Andros Townsend streaked forward from deep. It opened up in front of him and he didn’t have to be asked twice as he stroked the ball into the bottom corner.
United were deflated and it needed a smart save from Gillespie to stop the lead from being extended as Mason powered a downward header towards the target. And he was in action again when he tipped a wicked centre from Townsend onto the bar as Dempsey tried to finish it off.
United’s best moment of a tight closing spell came when Robson hooked an early cross into the box. Beck and Cadamarteri were there but Dawson was able to stab it behind before any damage was done.
And Spurs wrapped it up with a late header from Sigurdsson when Walker went past Simek to deliver a pinpoint cross.
“We’re disappointed with the goals because we were in the game before the free kick, and then the second one killed us off,” manager Greg Abbott said. “But we’ve seen a fantastic effort against one of the top teams in the country. They put a very strong side out and we worked hard and they know they’ve been in a game.
“We think the fans will go away happy with what they’ve seen. It was a night for everyone to enjoy themselves, and we now dust ourselves down, put it behind us and make sure we get ready for a big game against Crawley on Saturday. This is a competition we were never going to win but it’s given us a good night. Like I say, the important business for us is on Saturday.”
Tottenham Hotspur - Vertonghen (38), Townsend (54), Sigurdsson (89)
Carlisle United - Gillespie, Simek, Livesey, Murphy, Chantler, McGovern (Symington 62), Thirlwell (Noble (62), Berrett, Robson, Higginbotham (Beck 60), Cadamarteri. Subs - Collin, Madden, Edwards, Potts, Symington.
Tottenham Hotspur - Cudicini, Dempsey (Obika 76), Vertonghen (Walker 65), Huddlestone, Dawson, Sigurdsson, Falque, Townsend, Caulker, Mason (Carroll 71), Smith. Subs - Gomes, Lennon, Defoe, Sandro.
Referee - Kevin Friend
Attendance - 12,625 (1,455 away fans)