David Marshall did everything he could for Cardiff between the sticks to keep his club unbeaten at home, but in the end he just delayed the inevitable as Paulinho scored in stoppage time to give Tottenham a 1-0 victory.
The game began very very open, with both sides countering the other and chances begging, but Spurs definitely on top.
The visitors pressed hard down the right-hand side, with Kyle Walker, Michael Dawson, and Christian Eriksen all proving useful in the build-up.
Referee Mark Clattenburg allowed a very chippy game to flow, refusing to give many questionable challenges and instead continuing play. Both sides went hard into 50-50 situations, and the physical nature provided good entertainment despite the relative lack of a final ball.
Just before halftime Cardiff thought they had the opener against the run of play on a corner through the head of Ben Turner, but Clattenburg called him for a foul before he connected with the ball.
Hugo Lloris was lucky to get out of the first half unscathed, having made two errors. It appeared he handed the ball outside of the box and fouling Frazier Cambell to deny him a shot on goal, but Clattenburg did not punish him. He also dribbled the ball over the back line to concede the corner Turner nearly scored on. These are rare mistakes for a keeper who normally excels both with the ball at his feet and coming off his line.
Spurs finished the first half with 14 shots to Cardiff’s 1, but the home side were battling bitterly in the midfield. The second half started with Spurs even more desperately looking for the opener.
In the 51st minute Gylfi Sigurdsson blasted in a long-range bending strike that could unfortunately only clatter the crossbar. The rebound fell to Roberto Soldado but he cranked his shot directly at Cardiff keeper David Marshall and Spurs were left with nothing.
Peter Odemwingie nearly pegged Cardiff on top in the 65th minute, as he continued to pressure Kyle Walker down the Cardiff right. He cut the ball back towards the center of the box but flashed it wide.
The winner came finally, as Spurs threw everything they had at Cardiff down the stretch as the substitutes did the final work. A long ball fell to Lewis Holtby, who slotted through Erik Lamela on the right side of the box. Lamela brilliantly touched the ball with the outside of his foot to a streaking Paulinho, whose backheel into the net can only be described as sexy.
Spurs jump to 2nd in the table, level with Arsenal and only a goal less on differential. The heartbreak was tough for Malky Mackay and company to swallow, having hung on valiantly for the entire match. Marshall was brilliant, having to deal with 29 Spurs shots, 12 of which were on target.
Tottenham Hotspur – Paulinho 90+2′
Cardiff City – Marshall; Taylor, Caulker, Turner, Whittingham; Medel, Campbell (Odemwingie, 65′), Kim, Gunnarsson; Theophile-Catherine, Bellamy (Cowie, 78′).
Tottenham Hotspur – Lloris; Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Naughton; Dembele, Paulinho; Townsend (Kane, 81′), Eriksen (Holtby, 89′), Sigurdsson (Lamela 71′); Soldado.