In the end, City boss Peter Grant was simply relieved not to follow in the footsteps of both Wolves and Watford – dumped out of the Carling Cup competition at the second time of asking by two of the Football League's lesser lights.
That the Canaries didn't follow suit in the end came down to four coolly-struck penalties and some serious heroics from City No1 David Marshall who had already thwarted The Dale three times in extra-time before twice saving from the spot – enough to send Norwich into Saturday's third round draw 4-3 on penalties after the two teams found themselves level at 1-1 at both the 90 and 120-minute mark.
It was rough justice on Rochdale with the League Two strugglers causing their Championship visitors untold problems in a truly woeful first-half. After the break and Dion Dublin's second goal of the week restored some of Norwich's dignity, but it still needed some desperate defending – once again in every sense of the term – and some first class stops from Marshall to take the game to spot-kicks.
“Very, very pleased to be in the next round, but great credit to Rochdale they kept going – and David Marshall did what he's capable of,” said Grant, as he summed up a right roller-coaster of a game afterwards.
One that, inevitably, would bring a whole clutch of new injury concerns before, during and after this evening's eventful proceedings at Spotland.
Adam Drury never travelled with his groin trouble; Jamie Cureton picked up “a knock” in the Hull City game and was sidelined; David Strihavka had a throat infection. Neither played.
All of which left new-boy Ian Murray to Rochdale's mercies at left-back – despite being ill since the weekend. In front of him and Darren Huckerby's expected hour-long outing turned into a two-hour marathon; skipper Jason Shackell started and finished the game with an ankle injury.
Together they appear to have taken a little of the edge of Grant's anger at the interval after Glenn Murray made it a miserable night for his namesake Ian with the game's opening goal with no more than ten minutes on the clock. Murray disappeared at the interval after having what is commonly referred to as a torrid time.
“He's been ill since the weekend, but I had to play him because Adam wasn't fit and I just thought at half-time I had to change it because it was unfair on the kid – he could hardly walk,” explained Grant, forced to quell his fury in the circumstances.
“It was difficult because I know I'm putting guys out there that are not fit – like Huckerby – and I knew I was putting Ian Murray out when he was not well at all. And I knew he was struggling. And we knew Shackell was struggling with an injury – and you could see that late in the game; And we knew Julien (Brellier) was still feeling his legs.
“And that's why we had to take him off, but I thought he looked a lot sharper tonight,” added the City chief.
The biggest plus point probably came in the assured quality of Norwich's penalty kicks. Whether the required belief and confidence flowed from seeing Dale trip up first or whether Messrs Lappin, Brown, Martin and Huckerby were simply on top of the situation mentally from the start is something for others to ponder. Either way, all four didn't put a foot wrong from the spot – not something that you could say for the Canaries as a team for the majority of the night's contest.
“It was probably the only bit of composure that we showed,” admitted Grant, with the ball invariably assuming hot potato status for much of the night.
“That's the thing – we're very pleased to be in the next round particularly when I see some of the results. The only thing I can give the players credit for is their resiliance. A lot of them were patched up and shouldn't have been out there.
“So extra time was the last thing I needed. But saying that, our performance didn't deserve anything more than that,” said Grant, his anger just in check.
“I'm really, really critical at times and obviously angry at some of the stuff that we've done. But, in the cold light of day, I've got to be pleased with the fact that they kept going – guys were struggling out there before the game. To go the distance and to show the composure that they did late on in the game, I've got to be pleased at that.”
Where it all leaves him going into Saturday's home clash with Cardiff City will need to wait till the morning – not in the rudest of healths, be it in form or fitness-wise.
“It just seems to be going round in circles at this moment in time,” admitted Grant, with Cureton's absence one of many worries. “Jamie got a knock on Saturday and was struggling a bit, so we just couldn't take a chance on him.
“Hopefully, he may be available for the weekend but yet again we'll need a body count with the guys tonight – it's that bad, I can't do the warm down. And that's the first time I've not been able to do that.
“We'll assess and we'll need to make decisions very quickly – and if it comes to the case, we maybe need to try and get some people in. But whether we'll be able to do that, I don't know.”
“Overall, we're just very pleased to get through – but that's the only thing that we can take from here. We're in the next round. And cup competitions are about winning the games.”