Newcastle United's road to Wembley began on a warm night on the Wirral away to Tranmere Rovers on a strange old night at Prenton Park.
Things were hardly going to plan on second round night in the Carabao Cup when Elliot Nevitt netted after 21 minutes to give Rovers a deserved lead. We didn't know it then but the narrative for this season's competition for Newcastle was already being written behind the main stand as Martin Dubravka's loan move to Manchester United was being finalised by the club's admin staff.
The fact that Dubravka would later be ineligible because of it for Newcastle in the final that night probably didn't dawn on anybody. A reminder on the charmed life of a goalkeeper did come when Karl Darlow was crocked by a bad tackle but played on.
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Darlow's own cup fate would also unfold later in the season but it was thanks to Kieran Trippier that United hauled themselves back into the game. Had Emil Krafth not picked up a bad injury, Trippier may not have been involved at all but within minutes of his arrival he had reorganised a Newcastle team in trouble to haul them back level after whipping in a corner for Jamaal Lascelles to power home.
Only then could another player who can't play this weekend in Chris Wood provide Newcastle with a crucial moment of their cup run when he scored the winner eight minutes before the hour. It was a win that set up a third round clash at home to Crystal Palace but Newcastle would have to wait until November 9 for that clash at St James' Park.
It's worth bearing in mind that the Eagles actually took this game to penalties but Nick Pope was the hero as he kept out spot-kicks from Luka Milivojevic, Jean-Philippe Mateta and Malcolm Ebiowei. Wood, Trippier and Joelinton all netted and Bruno Guimaraes' rare mistake from 12-yards meant nothing.
The shoot-out victory set up another home tie against Howe's old club AFC Bournemouth but United would have to put it on the back burner until the latter stages of the World Cup. When domestic action resumed - with England defeated by France - much was made on whether the likes of Trippier, Pope and Bruno would be involved after the tournament in Qatar.
But Howe was more than happy to play a full strength team and it paid off, albeit the boss had to rely on an unfortunate favour from one of his South Coast stalwarts as Bournemouth's Adam Smith put the ball in his own net. By the time any concerns over a rusty performance had died down, Newcastle had been pitched in the quarter-finals against Leicester City.
It was at this stage that it felt like dreams were starting to turn into reality - not least when stand-in left-back Dan Burn got free down the flank before planting home a finish at the Gallowgate End that Alan Shearer or Wor Jackie would have been proud of.
Joelinton's insurance goal with 18 minutes then calmed the nerves although the Wembley songs had already erupted from the Gallowgate corner. Burn's dance of delight in the dressing room would go viral and Newcastle were on their way again.
The semi-finals loomed but first Newcastle fans watched on as Man City went nose to nose with Southampton. Avoiding City in the last four was a must, right?
Well, Newcastle managed that without any concerns as Southampton dumped them out at the last eight stage with many fans wondering if the tournament really was starting to shape up in the Toon's favour. Once the Saints were paired with Newcastle in the last four it felt like Wembley was in touching distance.
Joelinton's winner put Newcastle in control and a 1-0 win in the first leg set up the perfect scenario at St James' Park. With 21 minutes on the clock on Tyneside, Sean Longstaff had scored twice and Newcastle were on their way.
OK, a Che Adams goal made it tense and Bruno's red card ensured a tricky end but Newcastle were going to Wembley. And so on the eve of the final the Magpies have that elusive chance to end decades of hurt.
They must do it without heroes from the previous rounds with Pope banned, Wood transferred and Darlow - who stood firm at Tranmere - also in the stands due to the terms of his loan. But Newcastle have the chance to make history beneath the famous Wembley arch.
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