Already in last-chance saloon Tottenham Hotspur were staggering towards the Champions League trapdoor before Harry Kane conjured a late brace to earn his side a precious 2-1 win over PSV Eindhoven on Tuesday.
It had looked like being another night of Group B frustration for Tottenham, who spent the match huffing and puffing after Luuk de Jong headed PSV in front after 61 seconds.
PSV’s travelling 5,000-strong army looked set to celebrate a memorable night in north London at a half-empty Wembley only for Kane to come to Tottenham’s rescue and take his Champions League goals tally to 13 in 14 appearances.
He finally beat PSV’s inspired keeper Jeroen Zoet in the 78th minute and then in the 89th his header took a couple of deflections before creeping into the net.
It sealed Tottenham’s first win in the group although Mauro Icardi’s late equaliser for Inter Milan in a 1-1 draw with leaders Barcelona means Mauricio Pochettino’s side still face a huge task to reach the knockout phase.
There is still hope, though, and victory over Inter at home in their next match would draw them level with the Italians on seven points before the small matter of a trip to play Barcelona in the Nou Camp.
“Today it wasn’t ideal, conceding early, but then we were dominant and created chances,” said Kane, who now has 22 goals for Tottenham in Europe.
“Winning this one will be a big boost and we’ll go into Inter Milan after the international break full of confidence, full of energy and hopefully we can do the same.”
Dutch champions PSV are all but out with only one point.
Hugo Lloris’s rush of blood to the head and red card in the 2-2 draw in the Netherlands two weeks ago meant Paulo Gazzaniga wsa handed his Champions League debut for Tottenham.
His first action, however, was to pick the ball out of his net after skipper De Jong, who equalised late on a fortnight ago, was left unmarked to thump home a header from Gaston Pereiro’s corner in the second minute.
It provoked a response from Tottenham, with Dele Alli’s effort from a corner being cleared off the line by Angelino and Lucas Moura’s surging run into the area eventually smothered by some desperate PSV defending.
As the hosts cranked up the pressure PSV keeper Zoet made a superb double save to first deny Christian Eriksen’s close-range effort and then Alli’s follow-up.
Alli was kicking the air in frustration again 10 minutes before halftime when he was picked out by Alderweireld’s raking pass and his scuffed shot looked to be sneaking inside the post before Zoet plunged to his right to save.
If anything, PSV looked the more threatening side early in the second half, especially from set-pieces, one of which ended with Pereiro’s header forcing a diving save from Gazzaniga.
There was an air of resignation sweeping the home crowd as PSV threw their bodies in the way of shots and crosses, but Kane finally made the breakthrough.
Eriksen’s long ball into the area was knocked down by substitute Fernando Llorente and while Kane’s left-foot strike was not the cleanest, he managed to direct it beyond Zoet.
In a wide-open finale, substitute Donyell Malen had the chnace to win it for PSV but his stinging shot was tipped over by Gazzaniga and minutes later Kane snatched it for Spurs.
Ben Davies hung up a high cross and Kane’s header lacked power but crucially brushed off PSV’s Trent Sainsbury and crept into the corner beyond the despairing dive of Zoet.