THE warning sign was in front of their eyes as the players emerged from the tunnel. "Spirit of 98" read the banner passed around before kick-off. Newcastle United failed to heed it.
There were plenty of other reasons for the Magpies to sense this was an accident waiting to happen.
For starters, the television cameras were at Broadhall Way. They had not come to witness a Premier League side cruising to victory.
By the time Newcastle’s players made it on to the pitch the 2010-11 FA Cup third round was only a few hours old, yet they were already the North East’s sole survivors.
The rest simply had the misfortune to bump into hungry opposition. Stevenage had a score to settle.
If Newcastle had long forgotten their acrimonious 1998 meetings with a non-league side called Stevenage Borough, the town’s inhabitants had not. The programme was less a preview of the game, more a historical record of a 13-year-old event.
Steve Harper, United’s only survivor from that time, was at the bedside of his pregnant wife rather than on hand to warn against complacency.
However, it did not take much help to work out what was coming Newcastle’s way.
Before kick-off six members of the 1998 team were paraded on the pitch just in case the atmosphere needed spice.
With José Enrique and Jonás Guttiérez missing, eight of Newcastle’s starters were English-raised – yet only Argentina’s Fabricio Coloccini seemed to appreciate what this FA Cup tie meant.
Many of United’s squads learned their trade on grounds such as this, yet all looked uncomfortable.
While the centre-back threw himself into the battle with gusto, others seemed as though they would rather be sat in the warmth of their living rooms.
When Coloccini clattered into Chris Beardsley near the touchline early in the second half, it was a sign of things to come.
Newcastle had lost their composure, the game would soon follow.
For a club of the Magpies’ standing, the FA Cup ought to be important.
As captain Kevin Nolan suggested beforehand, it offered their “easiest” route into European football.
It is made for teams as infuriatingly inconsistent as Newcastle.