Gary O’Neil held his emotions for a millisecond, glanced towards the fourth official, Thomas Bramall, and then let himself go, haring along the touchline, punching the air as he went. Given the season Wolves have had when it comes to VAR decisions, who could really blame him? This time, however, he need not fret for nobody was going to tell him Mario Lemina’s winner, scored beyond the initial six minutes of second-half stoppage time, would not stand.
Wolves could be forgiven for thinking their afternoon peaked moments earlier, when Pablo Sarabia, who set up Lemina for the goal with a deft, feathery pass, volleyed in after latching on to Matheus Cunha’s wedged pass. All the while Ange Postecoglou, hands in the pockets of his blue woollen trench coat, swivelled on his feet and quietly stewed.
For so long it seemed Tottenham would get out of here with a narrow win and end a difficult week on a high. Without the injured James Maddison and Micky van den Ven and the suspended pair of Cristian Romero and Destiny Udogie, this was arguably Postecoglou’s toughest assignment yet and until the substitute Sarabia struck in added time, it seemed they would pass, even if not with flying colours. They failed to tame a relentless and hungry Wolves side after Brennan Johnson’s first Spurs goal with two minutes and 11 seconds on the clock.
Ordinarily, Wolves would have been staring down the barrel of a jarring defeat, with 15 shots to Spurs’ five in their favour. Until Sarabia’s strike, both teams had had only two on target. Wolves passed up several chances, the best falling to Hwang Hee-chan. Until a late effort by the substitute Giovani Lo Celso, Spurs’ only shot on José Sá’s goal ended up in the back of the Wolves net, Johnson beating Nélson Semedo to the ball at the back post to convert Pedro Porro’s low cross. Dejan Kulusevski’s nonchalant flick, to free the overlapping Porro, was the catalyst.
O’Neil spent much of this game bouncing on the edge of his technical area in unbridled frustration. Hwang’s chance 10 minutes into the second half, which arrived after João Gomes’s shot pinballed towards him via a heavy deflection off Ben Davies, was one of the best from a Wolves perspective but others were guilty of fluffing their lines. O’Neil arched his back and looked to the skies after the busy Cunha ran into traffic earlier and then Cunha sent a wayward shot wide after a neat give-and-go with the wing-back Rayan Aït-Nouri.
At the end of the first half Spurs had to withstand a flurry of Wolves set pieces and towards the end of the second the 6ft 7in Wolves substitute Sasa Kalajdzic also sent a header off target.
A foul on Pierre-Emile Højbjerg – one of those four changes from Monday’s defeat by Chelsea, which they finished with nine men – with three minutes to play provided Spurs some welcome respite. They carved out another chance when Lo Celso, who came on in place of Yves Bissouma with a quarter of an hour to run, forced a save from Sá after Kulusevski chopped inside Craig Dawson, who was again outstanding at the heart of the Wolves defence. Spurs, presumably, thought they had done enough but then came another kind of unthinkable capitulation.