Michael Smith and Marvin Johnson combine twice as Sheffield Wednesday wake up just in time to claim 2-1 FA Cup win over Mansfield Town
Mansfield Town, cheered on by around 4,000 fans, looked as though they really wanted to be in the third round of the FA Cup. An Owls team with far more talent on paper did not seem especially bothered about it until a switch flicked somewhere.
Twice in the space of five minutes, Marvin Johnson crossed from the left, Michael Smith stretched to tap the ball in and the dirge that preceded it was confined to the history books, the footnote on a page destined never to be glanced at again.
Darren Moore's team selection suggested he saw the afternoon as an opportunity to rest some bodies for the promotion push to come, but the idea was presumably not for those selected to work part-time shifts.
Ultimately, though, they got the job done with a 2-1 win that was nowhere near being on the cards for such a long time. When the third-round draw is made on Monday evening, they will be in it.
With his side so lethargic, manager Moore tried changing formation from 4-2-3-1 to 3-4-1-2 – pushing Johnson from full-back to wing-back – and even used his get out of jail free card, Barry Bannan but nothing seemed to spark his side until Johnson teed up Smith in the 79th minute.
The Owls made eight changes from the side which beat Shrewsbury Town seven days earlier and it showed more starkly than it ought to have in a squad which should be well used to tinkering by now.
They were all over the place in the opening minutes, Kellan Gordon's shot hitting their crossbar with a crucial touch from Cameron Dawson and Lucas Akins heading onto the roof of the net. Hiram Boateng dragged a shot wide.
Wednesday belatedly started to look a little bit like the higher-division opposition they were but the glimpses amounted to nothing.
Callum Paterson, playing in the hole, produced a lovely touch to pluck the ball but the move broke down, Lee Gregory produced some nice footwork only for the cross he teed up to be cut out. A couple of well-intentioned balls over the top to Alex Mighten were overhit, as was Will Vaulks's attempt to release Paterson down the middle. Gregory got back well to rob Riley Harbottle, but his attempted pass to Mallik Wilks was cut out.
The Stags looked more likely to finish things off when the ball was at the other end. Akins' 22nd-minute shot on the turn lacked venom but still Dawson needed two attempts to hold it.
So it was no surprise when Mansfield took the lead in the 34th minute.
Gordon cut back on his left-foot and dinked a curling pass which the Wednesday defenders watched closely but George Lapsile decided it might be a good idea to follow it, and put it into the net.
Dawson had to save well from former Sheffield United player Stephen Quinn, waiting patiently at the back of the queue of Mansfield players as the ball came cross.
Moore's team-talk did nothing to change things, Christy Pym's low saw from Vaulks's long-range effort an outlier, not the shape of things to come.
Lapsile shot over when he might have expected to at least put Quinn's pull-back on target and Boateng shot wide from distance shortly before Gregory glanced a header wide.
That was an hour in, and from there the game slumped into a coma when Wednesday should have been wrenching the kitchen sink off the wall and throwing it at Nigel Clough's men.
As soon as Smith scored, though, you felt the Owls would sneak through, even with Lapsile guided a shot over in the 86th minute and Boateng ballooning a good chance from a corner in the fifth added minute.
It was daylight robbery, really. For all the romance of the FA Cup, it can be heartlessly cruel at times too.
Sheffield Wednesday: Dawson; Hunt (Iorfa 63), Palmer, Ihiekwe (McGuinness 89), Johnson; Dele-Bashiru, Vaulks; Wilks (Smith 63), Paterson,Mighten; Gregory (Bannan 72).
Unused substitutes: Stockdale, Brown, James, Shipston, Glover,
Mansfield Town: Pym; Gordon (Wallace 90), Harbottle (Perch 79), Hawkins, Hewitt; Maris; Akins, Boateng, Lapsile, Quinn; Swan (Oates 79).
Unused substitutes: Flinders, Hartigan, Bowery, Law, Gale, O'Toole.
Referee: O Yates (Staffordshire).