When in injury-time Gareth Bale ran on to Harry Kane's pass, cut across Angelo Ogbonna and had only Lukasz Fabianski to beat, the goal and the headlines beckoned. The story was clear. The dream debut. Except Bale shot wide and, seconds later, there was a very different ending as West Ham claimed the most unlikely point in the history of the Premier League.
Never before had a team not lost when they were three goals down in the 81st minute and yet, 13 minutes later, another substitute, Manuel Lanzini, struck an arresting 25-yard first-time shot that hit the angle of post and crossbar and dropped over the line. It was the final kick of this remarkable game.
Cue the jokes. Has the curse of Bale struck again? In his first 24 league matches for Spurs, stretching over two years, he failed to be on the winning side with the then manager Harry Redknapp so keen to end that sequence in 2009 that he put him on with his team 4-0 up against Burnley in the 85th minute. They won.
Bale came on in the 71st minute here after his season-long loan from Real Madrid was secured in an attempt to bring some joy back into his career.
So 2,709 days after he last played - and scored - for Spurs in 2013 he was back and it seemed certain he would be tasting victory amid claims that Jose Mourinho may just be about to mount a title challenge again.
How that changed and how the first 16 minutes, when Spurs were unstoppable and Harry Kane seemed determined to remind everyone who deserved top billing, seemed a distant memory as Lanzini ripped off his shirt and West Ham manager David Moyes admitted he had his own "David Pleat moment" as he danced on to the pitch.
Before kick-off, all the focus was on Bale so that perhaps even West Ham forgot about Kane.
They - and everyone else - were given an emphatic reminder of the devastation he can cause as the striker scored twice and claimed a superb assist as that partnership with Son Heung-min was again to the fore.
Spurs scored with their first passage of meaningful possession. Kane collected the ball and arced a wonderful long pass forward that swung into the path of Son, allowing him to cut across Fabian Balbuena and curl his right-footed shot beyond Fabianski. Just 45 seconds had elapsed and it was Kane's ninth assist of the season - six of those for Son.
The second goal came as Kane again instigated the move with another excellent pass, this time to Steven Bergwijn, and when he eventually regained possession he first nutmegged Declan Rice on the edge of the West Ham penalty area before striking a low shot through Ogbonna's legs to beat Fabianski.
Kane's next goal was more routine but was again expertly taken as West Ham allowed Sergio Reguilon to stand up a cross beyond the far post. Not one of the visitors' three central defenders was close to Kane as he rose to guide a header back beyond Fabianski.
Game over, surely?
West Ham came into this fixture buoyed by two wins but were being swept aside and it appeared only a matter of time before Bale would come on to complete a perfect afternoon for Spurs.
But that ignored the fact that West Ham were much better after the first half and delivered warning after warning that, maybe, something could happen.
Even so when Pablo Fornals headed over from just two yards out after Michail Antonio's shot spun up to him, it appeared inconceivable as to what was to follow.
It was even more inconceivable when Son teed up Kane, whose first-time shot from the edge of the area beat Fabianski but struck the outside of a post.
A goal then and it would have been Kane's hat-trick and the end of any lingering doubt. Kane and Son are such a potent combination that it will be interesting to see how Mourinho integrates Bale.
Suddenly the game changed, which was even more impressive from West Ham given the stadium was empty and there was not the usual swirl of emotion and anxiety to play on Spurs' nerves. Mourinho will have to dwell on that and ponder how, given the undoubted strengthening of his squad, they were unable to see this game through. This was "Spursy" but it was not Mourinho-esque and he will not accept it.
Still surely it was just a consolation when Moussa Sissoko allowed Balbuena to reach an Aaron Cresswell free-kick and head the ball past Hugo Lloris? On the touchline though Moyes, back after a period of self-isolation, clearly thought differently and bellowed at his players to get the ball for a quick restart.
The haste was rewarded as substitute Andriy Yarmolenko slipped a pass to Vladimir Coufal, who crossed only for Davinson Sanchez to intervene and inadvertently send another header past Lloris.
Incredibly, there was tension in front of the vacant seats and it was palpable as panic began to spread for Spurs before Bale was given the chance to ease that. Instead he missed and lay on the turf in disappointment.
Even so, time was against West Ham, but they earned one last free-kick which was only cleared by Harry Winks, under pressure, as far as Lanzini, who instinctively let fly.
Maybe Lloris got a hand to it, but it was not enough and the injury-ravaged West Ham forward scored the kind of goal that Spurs fans have seen in the past from Bale.
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