Middlesbrough came through a difficult-looking home tie to Sheffield Wednesday to reach the fourth round of the FA Cup in convincing fashion on Sunday afternoon.
A drab first half was soon forgotten after an action-packed second, as two goals and a red card ensured there was plenty to talk about in the aftermath of the game.
Returning Boro captain Grant Leadbitter bent in a free kick just before the hour mark but saw his side reduced to ten men 60 seconds later as Daniel Ayala was shown a straight red.
However, Alvaro Negredo bundled home a second with 25 minutes to play, from which point the home side never really looked like letting Wednesday back into the game, as Marten de Roon smashed home a third in stoppage time.
Big names on show on both sides
Both managers made changes to their line-ups but fielded a number of their first-team stars. Defender Ayala, recently linked with a move away from the club, returned for Middlesbrough alongside captain Leadbitter and Cristhian Stuani.
Meanwhile, there was a Riverside return for Boro youth academy product Adam Reach, while attacking dangermen Fernando Forestieri and Steven Fletcher retained their places in the Owls' starting eleven.
The first quarter of an hour of the match passed largely without incident, as both sides showed a flicker of attacking intent but without offering much of a cutting edge.
Wednesday stole a corner from Ayala's loose touch and the hosts threatened down the right through the hard-working Stuani, but there was little for either set of fans to get too excited about as the game spluttered, rather than burst, into life.
The livewire Adama Traore looked the most likely to make something happen for the home side, and a run from him down the left brought Boro's first real chance approaching the half an hour mark.
A ball was lifted into the area from the left and keeper Joe Wildsmith didn't connect with his attempted punch, but Ayala lifted the rebound over the bar on the half-volley from the edge of the area.
The chance didn't quite spark the game into life, but Boro were encouraged by their first sight of goal and went close again just over five minutes later.
Traore sees chances go begging
Traore was found on the overlap on the left but the former Barcelona man couldn't get a meaningful shot away, and nobody managed to capitalise on the resulting penalty-area scramble.
Moments later, Negredo hooked a ball over the top towards the dangerous winger once again, but he was shepherded away from danger by Tom Lees and Wildsmith was able to take hold of the ball.
While the home side were not stamping their authority on the game, they were certainly in control of it as the game ticked on towards half-time.
Stuani was released by de Roon down the right and he put in a teasing low ball across the line of the six-yard box, but Negredo was a couple of yards behind the cross calling for a deeper pull-back.
That proved the last real opportunity of the first half, however, as any threat of an increase in the entertainment levels fizzled out as soon as it had appeared.
Wednesday started with promise in the second half, winning two early free kicks in dangerous positions but seeing both strongly headed away.
Middlesbrough looked to be in on goal close to the hour mark as Negredo tried to play in De Roon, but Wildsmith fell on the ball to cut the chance out.
Action aplenty in the second half
However, the game kicked into life soon after as Boro took the lead. A free kick was won slightly to the left of the D at the edge of the penalty area and, with Negredo and Leadbitter standing over it, it was the latter who stepped up to wrong-foot the goalkeeper and curl the ball into the bottom right.
But the home fans didn't have much time to celebrate. Straight from kick-off, Wednesday looked to hit back and Ayala brought down Forestieri with a late, heavy challenge - and promptly saw red.
Cristhian Stuani broke away for Boro as the resulting free kick was cleared and the hosts looked to be through, but the covering defenders just got back in time to cut out the Uruguayan's slide-rule pass destined for Negredo.
The former Manchester City man didn't have to wait long for his goal, though. Put under pressure by a pass from his own left-back, goalkeeper Wildsmith could only direct his clearance against the body of the onrushing striker and the ball cannoned straight into the Wednesday net.
With a man advantage, the away side didn't lie down and accept defeat, though their biggest threat continued to come from set pieces as Atdhe Nuhiu and Lucas Joao were introduced.
Boro defended in numbers and looked to hit the Owls on the break, and almost did so successfully through both Stuani and the substitute Stewart Downing.
Dominant Guzan helps Boro see out win
The home fans were left frustrated with just over ten minutes to play as De Roon was released one-on-one with the goalkeeper, but saw play pulled back for a Middlesbrough free kick on the halfway line despite the referee initially seeming to signal for the advantage.
Wednesday continued to put balls into the penalty area from wide positions, but far too often played them too close to Boro keeper Brad Guzan, who made a string of simple saves and commanded his penalty area with aplomb.
Barry Bannan cut inside from the left and dragged a shot wide before Forestieri tested Guzan with a curling long-range effort, while Boro were denied a third as an offside Stuani turned in Negredo's shot from the edge of the area.
Just into stoppage time, Boro had the extra goal their play merited as Stuani jinked his way between three Wednesday defenders into the area. His shot was parried by Wildsmith, but de Roon was on hand to pick up the rebound and slam it into the top-left corner and see Aitor Karanka's side safely through to the next round.