Tottenham went through to the Champions League last 16 as Group D winners after scoring in stoppage time to beat Marseille on a dramatic, frantic evening in France.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg struck in the 95th minute to secure Tottenham’s progress to the last 16 on a night when they were once heading out of the competition.
Spurs needed a draw to qualify for the knockout stage but Marseille took the lead through defender Chancel Mbemba on the stroke of half-time.
That meant Spurs dropped to third in the group – heading into the Europa League – before Clement Lenglet equalised early in the second half.
Tottenham were holding on desperately late on, but as Marseille pushed for the winner they needed to go through, they were caught on the break and Hojbjerg sealed victory for Spurs.
It was a dramatic evening as results throughout Group D had a bearing on Tottenham’s progress in the competition and made for anxious viewing. Sporting Lisbon’s 2-1 home defeat by Frankfurt meant Spurs ultimately finished top, but at one point they dropped to third in the group – heading out of the competition – and their position changed six times during the match, with three different teams topping the table during the evening.
The stoppage-time winner by Hojbjerg also saw Marseille finish bottom of the group, meaning they missed out on a place in the Europa League as well as failing to progress to the knockout stage of the Champions League.
Tottenham were under pressure for large spells – former Arsenal striker Alexis Sanchez and Jordan Veretout were both denied for Marseille before Spurs improved in the second half.
Harry Kane was inches from getting on the end of a cross to make it 1-1 just after half-time, before Lenglet capitalised on Spurs’ improvement with a clever header from Ivan Perisic’s free-kick.
Tottenham striker Kane later had a goal disallowed when he was clearly offside, before Hojbjerg fired the ball against the crossbar.
The drama continued as Marseille had a glorious chance to make it 2-1 with less than 10 minutes remaining when Sanchez’s shot was crucially blocked by Perisic from close range before ex-Arsenal defender Sead Kolasinac headed wide while unmarked.
But Tottenham managed to cling on and Kane held the ball up in the dying seconds before sliding it through for Hojbjerg to find the back of the net and silence a wild crowd in Marseille
Tottenham were up against it from the first minute as they arrived at a hostile Stade Velodrome – which was not full as punishment for recent crowd trouble but nonetheless vociferous.
Fireworks were set off in streets around the stadium before and during the match, while Marseille supporters gathered in clouds of smoke from flares to welcome their team before kick-off.
Spurs were also without manager Antonio Conte as he served a touchline ban following the draw with Sporting Lisbon, but they knew a point would see them advance to the knockout stage.
Tottenham assistant Cristian Stellini, who stood in for Conte, told BT Sport: “I enjoyed it when we won. “I spoke with Antonio. He’s tired because to watch from the crowd is not normal. He wasted a lot of energy.
“It’s better to stay on the touchline because you live the game like the players are doing.” Spurs had never beaten a French team away from home in Europe and were on the back foot in the first half with Hugo Lloris the busier goalkeeper.
Both teams were dealt injury blows before the break too, as on-loan Manchester United centre-back Eric Bailly was forced off for Marseille before Tottenham’s Son Heung-min suffered a heavy blow to the head.
Son was struggling as he was helped off the pitch and down the tunnel following a four-minute stop in play for treatment. He was replaced by Yves Bissouma a minute later with Spurs playing with 10 men momentarily.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Professional Footballers’ Association renewed calls for temporary concussion substitutions, saying the current protocols are “jeopardising player safety”. The second half was much improved from Spurs but at times they were cagey to defend their point and it almost allowed Marseille to cause an upset.
Tottenham goalkeeper Lloris told BT Sport afterwards: “It was a tough night, a great battle and even more [of a psychological battle].
“We could feel in the first half a team was playing without the fear to lose – it was Marseille – and in the second half we had a team that was fearing to lose – and it was us. “When we had to face difficulties, we showed great personality and it’s a great result.”
The hosts had several big chances late on with Perisic’s block and Kolasinac’s miss huge moments in the game.
In the end Marseille’s push to find a winner cost them European football for the rest of the season, while Spurs sneak through with three wins from their six group matches.