THE magic of the FA Cup may have been continually called into question in recent seasons but it was certainly there for all to see during a scintillating afternoon of football at Southend United on Saturday.
The Shrimpers saw off Championship strugglers Millwall 4-1 courtesy of a commanding and quality performance.
But the margin of the magnficent victory only tells half the story of what must surely rank as one of the most eventful afternoons of football ever seen at Roots Hall.
For not only did Phil Brown’s side dominate the majority of a match against a team two divisions above them, but there was also an incredible amount of excitement during an action packed encounter which lasted close to two hours!
The drama started early when the Lions claimed Barry Corr should have been sent off after a clash with defender Jack Smith in the opening exchanges before the stadium was plunged into darkness midway through the first half after the floodlights failed.
During 15 very nerve-wracking minutes, Blues fans waited for their hopes of a cup upset to be reignited and humorously attempted to get the game back on by shining their mobile phones towards the pitch.
But once the lights flickered back into life so did the Shrimpers as they continued to pile pressure on a Millwall side clearly lacking in confidence.
The Lions and their caretaker manager Neil Harris, who endured a miserable first return to Roots Hall, were not helped by the red card shown to striker Jermaine Easter just before the break and Southend made the most of their extra man to score another three goals in appalling wet conditions which could also have put the game in doubt.
However, the slippery surface just about stood up to the task and helped Blues bag what could prove to be a crucial triumph in their bid for success this season.
The cash strapped club picked up £67,500 in prize money after beating Millwall, plus gate receipts and will now have the chance to earn even more in the next stage of the competition.
That comes at a crucial time for Shrimpers who need to strengthen their squad during the January transfer window to bolster their chances of promotion and a return to League One.
Right now, Blues are only able to bring in just one more signing due to the restrictions of the transfer embargo they are currently under.
But the unexpected income the cup run has generated increases the chances of the embargo being lifted which, in turn, would make it more likely for Southend to be able to keep pace with their promotion rivals.
That is because more cover and competition is needed both in defence and attack but Saturday again showed the progress being made by the Shrimpers.
Blues have now lost just once in their last 13 games and are clearly starting to move in the right direction, unlike the ITV cameraman sent to cover Saturday’s game who somehow ended up in Southampton instead of Southend!
Blues’ route to the fourth round was certainly far more straight forward as they produced one of the best performances and results in many seasons.
The team impressed all over the pitch with midfielders Will Atkinson, Ryan Leonard and Michael Timlin all catching the eye and the margin of victory could easily have been far greater.
Further forward, Barry Corr also looked lively and returned to the score-sheet with a well taken header to continue his remarkable scoring record in the FA Cup.
The Irishman and his in form team-mates will now be looking to build on their mauling of the Lions as they resume their league campaign with a trip to Plymouth Argyle this weekend.
But whatever happens during the remainder of the season, Saturday’s match will be one that lives long in the memory for everyone connected with Southend United.
However, they will now all be hoping that there are more memorable moments are to follow as this talented team bids for even more triumphs and ultimately their main goal of promotion.