LONDON:  The FA Cup, for all its history of giant-killing upsets, has never seen anything like it in the Premier League era with shock home defeats for the top three clubs (Chelsea, Manchester City and Southampton).

Sixth-placed Tottenham were also overturned in front of their fans in a trail of destruction which wiped out no fewer than seven of the top 12 clubs – with two (Liverpool and Manchester United) forced to replay.  After Saturday’s games only three members of the Premier League were certain of progressing into the fifth round.

Chelsea . . .

** Jose Mourinho made no excuses after Chelsea raced into a two-goal lead at home to third division Bradford and then lost 4:2.

Mourinho usually defends his teams and his players. Not this time. He fielded an under-strength team but still a team worth around £200m compared with Bradford’s £7,500. Losing in all those circumstances was both “disgraceful” and “unacceptable.”

Chelsea had won all 10 of their home Premier League games this term and took control through early goals from Gary Cahill and Ramires. But Jon Stead reduced the deficit before half-time and former Chelsea junior Filipe Morais equalised on 75. Andy Halliday and substitute Mark Yeates scored in the last 10 minutes.

Mourinho went into the Bradford dressing room to congratulate all their players. Then he said: “I feel happy for Bradford but I also feel ashamed. If I were a journalist I would be very critical of the Chelsea manager and the Chelsea players.”

Chelsea had not conceded more than two goals at home in a game all season; they had not conceded three or more to a lower-league FA Cup side since 1991; they had not conceded four to a third-tier side since 1958; and Mourinho, as a manager, had never conceded four goals in a home game.

At least Chelsea are still competing for the League Cup, Premier League and Champions League. They host Liverpool tomorrow [Tuesday] in the second leg of their League Cup semi-final, with the tie locked at 1:1.

Manchester City . . .

** Manchester City made the basic mistake of underestimating Middlesbrough before losing 2:0 in front of their own fans to the second division team. It was a costly blow not only in terms of pride but in terms of morale.

City are now out of the FA Cup as well as five points behind Chelsea in the league, have not won any of their past three games and their next game is at Stamford Bridge for what looks like an early Premier League title decider.

Manager Manuel Pellegrini fielded almost his strongest possible side but was at fault for bringing his players home from a short break in Abu Dhabi only on Friday night.

City pressed forward for most of the game but, as against Arsenal previously in the league, could not convert possession into goals. Hence they were undone early in the second half by a comedy goal from ex-Chelsea youth product Patrick Bamford after a double blunder by Fernando.

Boro even hit the post before Bamford set up the decisive stoppage-time second goal for Spanish striker Kike. Bamford had been to the Etihad Stadium only once before, to see a Bon Jovi concert.

Southampton . . .

** Saints’ hopes of first Cup triumph since 1976 were undone by the new wave of confidence sweeping through Crystal Palace ever since Alan Pardew arrived as manager early this month from Newcastle.

Like Chelsea and Tottenham, Southampton were upset at home despite taking the lead through Graziano Pelle. But, in a first half which brought all five goals, Palace hit back with two from Marouane Chamakh and another from Arenal loanee Yaya Sanogo.

Saints’ manager Ronald Koeman displayed a naivety about the levelling atmosphere and emotion generated by the FA Cup when he said: “It’s not normal that a team like Crystal Palace – with all due respect, because they played very well – should create so many possibilities.”

The Dutchman, in his first season in Engish football, knows now.

Tottenham . . .

** Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino joked that a reporter, before the game, had consulted Wikipedia for a mistaken reference to his poor cup competition history.

But the joke was on Pochettino after two late goals from fellow Argentinian Leonardo Ulloa and Jeffrey Schlupp turned a 1:0 lead into a 2:1 defeat at home to the Premier League strugglers.

Spurs’ goal came from a first-half penalty by Andros Townsend – who has scored spotkicks in four different competitions this season, along with the Premier League, Europa League and League Cup.

Tottenham had suffered only one defeat in their previous 11 games and are on the brink of reaching the League Cup Final. With this week’s semi-final return against Sheffield United, Pochettino kept top-scoring Harry Kane on the subs’ bench until the 87th minute. By then it was too late.

Liverpool . . .

** Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers may be ready to admit that his gamble on Mario Balotelli has failed. The pair had talks after training on Friday but the controversial Italy striker was excluded from the 18-man squad for the 0:0 draw with Bolton even though fully fit.

With long-injured Daniel Sturridge back in training this week and Liverpool unbeaten in nine matches since changing to a 3-4-3 formation, Rodgers has warned Balotelli he faces a long absence from the starting line-up unless he improves his work commitment.

Rodgers said: “Mario probably sees the real Liverpool now and understands what it takes to get back into the team.”

Both teams had valid penalty claims denied by unfriendly referee Kevin Friend. Liverpool’s thoughts now switch to the League Cup. Captain Steven Gerrard will be back at Chelsea for the semi-final second leg tomorrow [TUESDAY] after being rested against Bolton.

Manchester United (Friday) . . .

** The patient demeanour which Louis Van Gaal has adopted all season almost crumbled after Manchester United were held goalless on Friday away to fourth division Cambridge United, the lowest-ranked survivors in the FA Cup fourth round.

Ramadel Falcao and Angel Di Maria both went close as Cambridge held out for a replay at Old Trafford. Van Gaal said: ” The atmosphere here was fantastic and of course the opponents also gave a lot more than normal, and their fans. Every aspect of the match was against us – the pitch, the referee, everything that you can think about.”

Van Gaal thought his team fell into the trap of not playing their natural aggressive game in the first half, a mistake he said they also made in the last round against their division Yeovil Town.

The Dutchman knows the FA Cup is of overriding importance this season with the Premier League title out of reach. United last won the competition in 2004 and with no European football, Van Gaal said: “This is the most important title for us.”