On-loan striker Lacina Traore made the perfect start to his Everton debut but it was substitute Steven Naismith who played the pivotal role in their FA Cup victory over an under-strength Swansea.
Traore, who joined in January from Monaco, scored after just four minutes but it was his second-half replacement who secured the 3-1 win and safe passage into the quarter-finals.
The Scotland international scored within four minutes of coming on to restore Everton’s lead after Jonathan de Guzman’s equaliser and won the penalty which Leighton Baines converted.
Toffees manager Roberto Martinez, facing the club over whom he had such an influence between 2007 and 2009, remains on course to complete his quest of becoming the first manager to retain the cup with different clubs, having lifted it with Wigan last May.
Seamus Coleman felt Naismith’s second-half introduction was key to Everton’s win, saying: “Steven came on and changed the game. He got us a goal and won the penalty.”
Naismith was forced off before the end of the match, having tried but failed to carry on after being caught in the head by Jordi Amat.
Martinez said: “We are a little bit concerned by his concussion.” The Spaniard was impressed by his contribution, though, saying: “He is always a reliable footballer and you can always count on him being ready.”
Naismith was introduced in place of debutant Traore, who had given his new side the lead after only four minutes. And Martinez was pleased to see the striker get off the mark so soon. “It’s important,” he said. “Lacina has been working very well. We needed to introduce him slowly. It was pleasing to see him on the pitch and see him scoring.”
Everton were handed a trip to Arsenal in the last eight. Martinez said: “The draw hasn’t been too kind in terms of playing away from home, but we will embrace it and look forward to it.”
So, too, will Sheffield United match-winner Chris Porter, who was unaware a possible Steel City quarter-final was at stake when he scored a dramatic late brace to defeat Nottingham Forest in the fifth round. Porter took to the field in the 87th minute with the scores tied and walked off having netted twice to secure a stunning 3-1 win for the Sky Bet League One side.
Blades boss Nigel Clough found out at half-time that the winners at Bramall Lane face a home tie against either Sheffield Wednesday or Charlton and used the possibility of a derby date with the Owls to inspire his side to overturn a 1-0 deficit.
But Porter, who nervelessly converted a last-minute penalty before bundling home a second in injury-time, was on the pitch with his fellow substitutes when the news was revealed.
“I was out warming up [when the draw was made] so I wasn’t aware who we might be playing,” said the striker. “A fan shouted on about it but I didn’t know whether he was serious so I wasn’t 100 per cent aware who we’d be playing.
“We didn’t need any extra motivation than playing for the quarter-final of the FA Cup but it would be massive. It would be jam-packed here for Wednesday, people trying to get in all over the place.”
Porter’s ignorance of United’s potential opponents may have helped when he took the decisive spot-kick, but Clough was happy to let the rest of his side know. “Yes, we told them just before they went back out,” he said.
“We thought ‘what the hell?’, we’ll just tell them. I just said ‘you’ve got 45 minutes, away you go. If we get the victory you might have a Sheffield derby yet’. A few of them didn’t believe us actually so we just joked and said it was Brighton or Hull away. We had to come back and win the match so it might have been a small incentive for the players.”
United’s latest cup scalp – with Aston Villa and Fulham already vanquished in earlier rounds – went down well with home fans, though a mini pitch invasion at full-time may have crossed the line.
“The were 25,000 in today and the fans were incredible, that’s the sort of atmosphere you want to play in,” said Clough. “The only downside is a few supporters coming on the pitch. You understand the exuberance, but just try and stay off the pitch.”
Forest had taken the lead through Jamie Paterson’s 28th-minute header and held it for 40 minutes until goalkeeper Dorus De Vries gifted Conor Coady the simplest of equalisers.
Forest boss Billy Davies said: “The first 45 minutes we had total domination, the second half is complete and utter self-destruct. Looking at their goals, it is individual error. We gave them a huge lift and by the end they looked much hungrier.”