Heurelho Gomes almost single-handedly knocked Arsenal out of the title race last night, and together with Danny Rose, claimed cult status among Tottenham supporters still revelling in last night's tense 2-1 victory.
In his pre-match interview, Harry Redknapp hinted that he might hand a chance to one of Tottenham's successful youth team players. Later, when asked about Danny Rose's qualities, he kept his cards close to his chest.
He was wise to do so.
However, while much of the focus following the match was on Rose's sensational 30-yard volley early in the first-half, ultimately it was a trio of world-class saves from Gomes which ensured that Spurs beat neighbours Arsenal for the first time in the league since 1999.
Danny Rose, still buzzing from the events of a breathless night's football at White Hart Lane, praised Gomes for his Man of the Match performance:
"The atmosphere in the dressing room was unbelievable after the game," said Rose.
"Everyone was buzzing and jumping on Gomes. He made three terrific, world-class saves and everyone was buzzing."
Firstly, he tipped over a close-range volley from sub Robin Van Persie. Minutes later, he leaped like a salmon to claw Van Persie's expert free-kick—heading for the top right-hand corner of the goal—past the post. Finally, he produced a stunning reaction save to Sol Campbell's header.
Unsurprisingly, he was congratulated by Tottenham players during the match, and embraced by his colleagues after the match.
In his first season in the Premier League—following a €10 million move from PSV Eindhoven for whom he kept a clean sheet in 60% of the matches in which he played and once played for 956 minutes without conceding a goal—he was ridiculed by the press and many Tottenham fans.
Early in the season, he let a weak Ashley Young shot squirm through his grip and, with Tottenham mired in the relegation zone, he followed this with an embarrassing own goal against Fulham.
But, after the departure of goalkeeping coach Hans Leitert and manager Juande Ramos, he seemed to find his feet slowly but surely.
New boss Redknapp brought in experience goalkeeping coach Tony Parks to work with Gomes closely helping the giant Brazilian to revert to basics and regain confidence in his ability. With his performances more assured every week and the Tottenham defence starting to find some resilience, Spurs climbed the league quickly.
This season, he endeared himself still further to his home fans by denying former striker Darren Bent three times from the penalty stop.
Thanks to the performances of Gomes and Michael Dawson in particular, Tottenham has the third best defensive record in the league, having conceded fewer than one goal per game. A remarkable achievement for a side always considered by pundits and oppposition managers as talented but vulnerable.
Gomes, in contrast to last season, is taking fewer risks, distributing the ball more sensibly and handling the ball with more authority.
Dumbfounded Arsenal striker Van Persie called Gomes' two saves last night as 'crazy' while Ledley King was even more lavish in his praise: "He [Gomes] is up there with the best goalkeepers in the world and he has pulled us out time and time again this season."
If Tottenham are to dramatically snatch Champions League football from favourites Manchester City's grasp, Gomes will need to maintain his level of performance for the next month as his team still has to face Chelsea on Saturday, and both Manchester teams thereafter.
If 'The Octopus'—a moniker handed to Gomes because of his disproportionately long arms—helped Spurs achieve this feat, he would stand a very good chance of being selected in Brazil's 2010 World Cup squad, an achievement which would cap a remarkable 12-month transformation from zero to hero.