Higginbotham shows his delight after his winner for Stoke
By Chris Bevan
Danny Higginbotham's fierce free-kick sank West Ham and sent Stoke into their first FA Cup semi-final for 39 years as they edged a fast and furious game that was full of controversy.
After Robert Huth headed the Potters in front, referee Mike Jones angered both sides with his decisions, first allowing Frederic Piquionne's equaliser to stand despite an apparent handball and then awarding Stoke a cheap penalty which Robert Green saved brilliantly.
Jones also played a key part in Higginbotham's winner, awarding the Potters another free-kick for handball in the wall when Jermaine Pennant's initial effort was blocked.
But once the dust settles, it would be a shame if the officials were to be the main post-match talking point because this was a full-blooded cup tie that saw plenty of endeavour by both teams.
Roared on by the home fans, Stoke made a breathless start and Pennant sent over two dangerous crosses from the right in the first two minutes, with Matthew Etherington getting on the end of one of them to force a fine save from Green.
The visitors were given notice of what was to come when Huth headed wide from a Rory Delap long throw but failed to heed the warning, allowing the German defender to rise unmarked to meet another Delap catapult and plant his header into the net after 12 minutes.
Stoke deserved their advantage and they looked to build on their lead with Etherington continuing his busy wing-play down the opposite flank.
Apart from an unusually tame long-range Thomas Hitzlsperger effort, the Hammers created nothing in response until Piquionne's leveller on the half-hour mark, which was allowed to stand to the ire of the Stoke players and fans.
The French striker appeared to bring down Hitzlsperger's long ball over the top with his arm, before chipping it over Thomas Sorensen and bundling it across the line despite the best efforts of Huth.
The decision left Potters boss Tony Pulis apoplectic on the touchline, a feeling his West Ham counterpart Avram Grant was to share immediately after the break.
Just 14 seconds into the second half, Etherington ran into the box and went down under the challenge of Scott Parker and James Tomkins.
There appeared to be minimal contact but Jones pointed straight to the spot and it took a superb save from Green, who flung himself to his left to stop Etherington's penalty, to keep the scores level.
Yet more controversy followed when Stoke regained the lead just after the hour mark.
Jones awarded another free-kick when Pennant's effort was blocked by Victor Obinna's arm.
This time Higginbotham stepped up to drive his effort through the wall and, despite pushing it onto the post, Green could not stop it crossing the line.
That left West Ham 27 minutes to find another equaliser but despite piling on the pressure they could find no way past Sorensen, who was in inspired form.
The Danish keeper brilliantly tipped over Obinna's angled drive and turned away substitute Robbie Keane's near-post effort.
West Ham also had two claims for a penalty turned down, first for a Huth handball and then when Jon Walters tangled with Tomkins from a free-kick.
They were then out of luck when Matthew Upson headed Hitzlsperger's corner against the bar.
It means Grant, a losing finalist with Portsmouth last year, is again denied a return to Wembley after the Hammers also suffered defeat in this season's Carling Cup semi-final and he now has only a relegation battle to look forward to this season.
Cheers rang around the Britannia Stadium when Stoke's fans saw they had drawn Bolton in the last four, showing how confident they will be of reaching the final, despite their own precarious league position.
90:00+5:06 The referee blows for the end of the match.
90:00+2:06 Unfair challenge on Jonathan Walters by Zavon Hines results in a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Thomas Sorensen.
90:00+1:10 Ricardo Fuller concedes a free kick for a foul on Wayne Bridge. Robert Green takes the direct free kick.
90:00+1:10 Substitution Matthew Etherington leaves the field to be replaced by Danny Collins.
90:00+1:10 Booking Ricardo Fuller is cautioned by the ref for unsporting behaviour.
89:37 Substitution (Stoke) makes a substitution, with Ricardo Fuller coming on for Kenwyne Jones.
88:30 Carlton Cole takes a shot. Save made by Thomas Sorensen. Thomas Hitzlsperger takes the inswinging corner, Rory Delap manages
to make a clearance.
86:37 Unfair challenge on Dean Whitehead by Jonathan Spector results in a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Matthew Etherington.
85:45 Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Scott Parker from the left by-line to the near post, Kenwyne Jones manages to make
84:40 Inswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Thomas Hitzlsperger, Matthew Upson takes a shot.
81:48 Danny Higginbotham challenges Zavon Hines unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick crossed left-footed by Thomas Hitzlsperger
from right channel.
80:04 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Robert Huth by Scott Parker. Direct free kick taken by Thomas Sorensen.
80:04 Substitution Dean Whitehead replaces Jermaine Pennant.
80:04 Substitution Zavon Hines on for Mark Noble.
76:55 Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Mark Noble, save made by Thomas Sorensen.
75:37 Robbie Keane takes a shot. Save by Thomas Sorensen. Inswinging corner taken by Thomas Hitzlsperger from the right by-line,
Ryan Shawcross manages to make a clearance.
73:04 Effort from the edge of the box by Jermaine Pennant goes wide of the right-hand upright.
71:38 Manuel da Costa fouled by Jonathan Walters, the ref awards a free kick. Robert Green restarts play with the free kick.
71:14 The ball is crossed by Matthew Etherington, Header from deep inside the penalty area by Kenwyne Jones goes harmlessly over
70:19 Inswinging corner taken from the left by-line by Jermaine Pennant, save by Robert Green.
68:53 Thomas Hitzlsperger produces a left-footed shot from long range which goes wide right of the goal.
67:25 Substitution Victor Obinna goes off and Robbie Keane comes on.
66:12 Victor Obinna takes a shot. Save by Thomas Sorensen. Corner from the right by-line taken by Thomas Hitzlsperger, save made
by Thomas Sorensen.
65:40 Jonathan Walters takes a shot. Wayne Bridge gets a block in.
64:46 Effort from outside the penalty box by Victor Obinna goes wide right of the target.
62:10 Victor Obinna handles the ball and concedes a free kick.
62:10 GOAL - Danny Higginbotham:Stoke 2 - 1 West Ham Danny Higginbotham scores a goal from just inside the penalty area to the bottom right corner of the goal. Stoke 2-1 West
59:46 Jonathan Walters fouled by Manuel da Costa, the ref awards a free kick. Strike on goal comes in from Jermaine Pennant from
the free kick, blocked by Victor Obinna.
57:11 Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Jermaine Pennant from the left by-line, save by Robert Green.
56:10 Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Matthew Etherington, Kenwyne Jones takes a shot. Carlton Cole manages to make a clearance.
50:35 Scott Parker fouled by Ryan Shawcross, the ref awards a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Wayne Bridge, A cross is delivered
by Thomas Hitzlsperger, clearance by Ryan Shawcross.
50:35 Booking Ryan Shawcross receives a caution for unsporting behaviour.
48:39 Corner from the right by-line taken by Matthew Etherington, Headed effort from deep inside the penalty area by Ryan Shawcross
misses to the left of the goal.
47:26 Corner taken right-footed by Jermaine Pennant, Matthew Upson manages to make a clearance.
46:42 Wayne Bridge concedes a free kick for a foul on Jermaine Pennant. Free kick crossed right-footed by Jermaine Pennant from
46:31 Placed penalty taken by Matthew Etherington saved by Robert Green. Stoke 1-1 West Ham.
45:14 Unfair challenge on Matthew Etherington by Scott Parker results in a Penalty.
45:01 The referee gets the second half started.
45:00+3:20 The first half comes to an end.
45:00+2:47 Effort from just outside the area by Jermaine Pennant goes over the bar.
Correction - 45:00+2:26 Jonathan Walters takes a shot. Robert Green makes a save.
45:00+2:26 Jonathan Walters takes a shot. Save made by Robert Green.
45:00+2:00 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Glenn Whelan by Manuel da Costa. Danny Higginbotham takes the free kick.
45:00+2:00 Booking Manuel da Costa receives a yellow card for unsporting behaviour.
43:47 Free kick awarded for a foul by Scott Parker on Matthew Etherington. Rory Delap takes the direct free kick.
42:40 Free kick awarded for a foul by Matthew Upson on Kenwyne Jones. The free kick is delivered left-footed by Matthew Etherington
from right wing.
42:13 Effort from long distance by Scott Parker goes wide of the left-hand upright.
39:39 Foul by Thomas Hitzlsperger on Glenn Whelan, free kick awarded. Matthew Etherington crosses the ball in from the free kick,
save made by Robert Green. Glenn Whelan takes a shot from deep inside the box clearing the bar.
39:39 Booking Thomas Hitzlsperger booked for unsporting behaviour.
34:42 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Jonathan Walters by Manuel da Costa. Jermaine Pennant crosses the ball in from
the free kick, Robert Green makes a save.
34:42 Substitution Jonathan Spector joins the action as a substitute, replacing Frederic Piquionne.
29:45 The assist for the goal came from Thomas Hitzlsperger.
29:45 GOAL - Frederic Piquionne:Stoke 1 - 1 West Ham Goal scored by Frederic Piquionne from inside the box low into the middle of the goal. Stoke 1-1 West Ham.
22:39 Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Matthew Etherington, save by Robert Green.
21:55 Victor Obinna gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Danny Higginbotham. Danny Higginbotham takes the direct free
21:55 Booking Caution for Victor Obinna.
18:45 James Tomkins has an effort at goal and missed to the right of the goal.
17:07 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Rory Delap by Thomas Hitzlsperger. Direct free kick taken by Thomas Sorensen.
15:38 Mark Noble takes a shot. Save by Thomas Sorensen.
11:29 Assist on the goal came from Rory Delap.
11:29 GOAL - Robert Huth:Stoke 1 - 0 West Ham Robert Huth finds the net with a headed goal from inside the six-yard box. Stoke 1-0 West Ham.
8:47 Shot by Jonathan Walters from just outside the area goes over the net.
6:52 Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Mark Noble, clearance by Jonathan Walters.
5:32 Glenn Whelan challenges Victor Obinna unfairly and gives away a free kick. The free kick is delivered right-footed by Manuel
da Costa from right wing.
3:36 Robert Huth fouled by Mark Noble, the ref awards a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Thomas Sorensen.
2:17 Close range header by Robert Huth goes wide of the left-hand post.
1:38 Centre by Jermaine Pennant, Matthew Etherington takes a shot. Save by Robert Green.
1:03 Kenwyne Jones takes a shot. Save made by Robert Green.
0:00 The referee gets the game started.
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