The striker's goal in his team's 2-0 defeat of Crystal Palace—coming after Christian Eriksen had opened the scoring earlier in the second half—sealed a win Tottenham ultimately deserved. But only after surviving the Eagles' greater early impetus.
Defoe's display was not flawless, but the good far outweighed the bad. Mostly because his efforts helped in the process of reinvigorating what had been a lacklustre showing from his team, of which the inactivity of the man he replaced, Roberto Soldado, formed a large part.
In fairness, Emmanuel Adebayor was similarly lifeless in the first half, outfought and outsmarted by a Palace defence more eager to get to the ball than the flat-footed forward.
Even on his worst days, though, his size ensures he remains a threat. This much was shown by his assist for Eriksen's opener, when he flicked on Kyle Naughton's well-selected long ball forward—though Spurs had begun to improve by that point.
Adebayor is also generally more willing to get involved. A fact highlighted by his 56 attempted passes compared to Soldado's 18 (source: Squawka.com).
Defoe and Soldado are a fairer comparison, though, for a number of reasons. Both are under 6', thrive on penalty box chances, and this season have each experienced the challenges these traits ensure when playing as a lone striker.
The key difference today—one which will concern manager Tim Sherwood moving forward with one player but not the other—was their work ethic.
Soldado's movement across the line of the Palace back-four was non-existent at times. Understandably the Spaniard does not like to get too far removed from areas he believes a shooting opportunity may arise in.
Still, Soldado is unlikely to get many chances if he does not inject a little more urgency into his game in the form of off-the-ball runs that will provide an option for a teammate. Or at least ones that will serve to misdirect his marker and perhaps open some space.
Defoe benefited from the game opening up. Palace tired slightly from their persistent closing down and all-round pressure they applied to Spurs. Subsequently, the 31-year-old had a little more time in the final half hour to run at them.
Nonetheless, Defoe looked a more eager proposition than Soldado. He was sharper in getting on the ball, and more purposeful in possession from there. Almost straight away he found himself behind the Eagles' previously disciplined defence, with a couple of crosses causing their keeper Julian Speroni problems.
The outgoing striker's goal was testament to what can come from playing on your toes rather than your heels. He was alert to Aaron Lennon's run into space, positioning himself to be able to take the winger's pass into the channel. From there he showed quick feet to work an opening and finished well.
Before this comes across as too much of an anti-Soldado, pro-Defoe argument, it is best to remember:
Jermain Defoe has now scored the same amount of Premier League goals (1) for Spurs in 2014 as he managed in the whole of 2013.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 11, 2014
Part of the reason the England international is leaving Spurs is that he has not been playing so well as to be indispensable (in the Premier League at least, he had scored nine prior to Saturday in cup competition).
Defoe had his share of misfortune with injury in 2013, as well as suffering from issues elsewhere in the team too. Soldado was brought in to provide the goals his teammate was not scoring consistently enough to be an automatic first-choice.
With Defoe leaving, though, Spurs are going to need Soldado to pick up the slack. With Adebayor back in the fold he has more help than he had when on his own up-front. His team will still need him to find ways of getting involved and affecting the game as well as he did at Valencia, though.
Soldado's quality was evident against Palace, just all too rarely. There was a terrific first-half run that almost led to a crossing opportunity. Then early in the second half he controlled a Danny Rose pass expertly before playing Eriksen in for a chance the Dane might have done better with.
Sherwood made it clear following the announcement of Defoe's exit that he is happy to make do with the attackers he has. Having overseen Adebayor's relatively successful reintegration, he will believe he can inspire Soldado to goal-scoring form too.
The next couple of weeks will make for an interesting watch to see if anything convinces Tottenham to change their stance over not signing a replacement for Defoe.
Should they begin to feel they are not getting enough from Soldado—and indeed, their other players too—that temptation may arise. Sherwood and the club's decision-makers only have so long to decide one way or the other.