Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has always been so expert at changing narratives that Newcastle United's players should have known better than to switch off once Papiss Cissé had given them the lead.
While most others assumed Alan Pardew's team were through to the fourth round and Cardiff City's new manager would probably be privately delighted to be able to concentrate on avoiding relegation from the Premier League, Solskjaer had already begun plotting a dramatic denouement.
The old Manchester United "super-sub", whose last-gasp goal won the 1999 Champions League final, delighted in turning his English technical area debut into a masterclass in the art of deploying substitutes to devastating effect.
Seconds after trotting on, Craig Noone collected the ball around 35 yards out before proceeding to shoot ferociously into the top corner of Rob Elliot's goal. Then, in the 80th minute, another substitute, Fraizer Campbell, headed the winner from Peter Whittingham's badly defended corner. Campbell had hit a post seconds after his introduction. Meanwhile Newcastle's organisation at Whittingham's set piece was disrupted by the arrival of Cardiff's third substitute, Tommy Smith, immediately before its delivery.
As Solskjaer thrilled travelling Cardiff fans by performing "The Ayatollah", a head-patting celebration unique to the club which sounds the sort of thing Nicolas Anelka might indulge in but is actually fairly harmless, Newcastle fans booed their disgust.
Only 31,166 turned up at a ground frequently filled to 52,000 capacity but local pessimism was justified. Apart from failing to win a domestic trophy since 1955, Newcastle have made such a negligible impact on the FA Cup in recent seasons that being knocked out early almost seems deliberate club policy.
While it is no secret that Mike Ashley, the owner, prioritises the league, there could be no doubting Pardew's fury at this latest ignominious exit. It leaves his recently resurgent team on a run of three straight defeats and their manager well aware that, should Manchester City make it four after visiting Tyneside on Sunday, awkward questions will be asked. True, Pardew made seven personnel changes to Solskjaer's five but, on paper at least, it was still a strong home starting XI.
"We played very bad today," said Newcastle's wide midfielder Yoan Gouffran. "We had no fighting spirit and deserved to lose. This hurts; we really wanted to win something this year. We felt we could go far in this competition. We wanted to win for the fans today because we know what it means to them but we played so bad. We're disappointed.
"We scored one goal and thought we were going to win but then we gave away two goals. I am very angry and the manager was very angry with us. We can't play like that. It was unacceptable. We have to try and change the mentality. We thought we were going through so maybe we lost a little bit of intensity and concentration."
Solskjaer knows all about exploiting opposing complacency and Noone and Campbell proved willing disciples. "When I went on he just said: 'Go and express yourself, be positive and get at them,'" said Noone. "It was one of the best goals I've ever scored but the new manager wants us on the front foot, passing the ball better, playing football, being positive and not letting nerves set in."
It sounds a decent manifesto and Solskjaer is confident it will prove a winning one. "We have tough days ahead," he said. "But our foundations are very, very, solid."
Man of the match Fraizer Campbell (Cardiff City)