Eden Hazard was Real Madrid's unlikely Copa del Rey match-winner as the 10-man LaLiga leaders rallied to a 2-1 win at Elche in extra time.
Madrid have lifted the Copa only twice this century and looked highly unlikely to improve that record when Marcelo was sent off and Gonzalo Verdu capitalised from the subsequent free-kick in the 103rd minute.
Carlo Ancelotti's men had been awful to that point but staged a stunning recovery courtesy of goals from two substitutes.
Isco levelled with 12 minutes to play, teeing up Hazard – much maligned at the Santiago Bernabeu – to race away and net a decisive second, stunning poor Elche, who were contentiously denied their own equaliser and then had Pere Milla dismissed.
Elche must have feared they would be made to pay when Madrid somehow reached half-time all square, grateful for the wayward finishing of forward Guido Carrillo, whose most remarkable miss worked only the crossbar after Marcelo's slip had allowed Josen to square across the face of goal.
A mixed Marcelo outing created Madrid's best second-half chance with a gorgeous flick, only for Vinicius Junior to finish tamely, before the left-back departed early in extra time after clipping the heels of Tete Morente.
Verdu's fortunate goal, deflected in off Dani Ceballos at the second attempt, followed the red card, but the luckless Madrid midfielder – another introduced from the bench – responded with a low effort that was touched on and in by Isco.
Madrid suddenly looked a better side with 10 men than they had been with 11 and stole the winner when Hazard rounded rash goalkeeper Axel Werner and netted from a tight angle.
There might yet have been another twist, but Fidel's goal was struck off after Verdu tangled with a Madrid player in the box. Elche argued in vain it was in fact their man who had been fouled, yet succeeded only in prompting Milla's second yellow card.
What does it mean? Fortune favours the Blancos
Extra time brought controversy almost from start to finish, but Elche really should have dispatched Madrid long before that point.
Unfortunately, each of their four first-half attempts fell to Carrillo. They had a combined expected goals value of 1.25, including his point-blank miss from a chance worth 0.88 xG.
Still, Madrid deserved credit for digging in when they belatedly did fall behind. The previous three extra-time Copa goals they had conceded since 2003-04 had led to the capital club's elimination.
Hazard the hero
Reports suggest Hazard would not have been an option off the bench if Madrid officials had had their way.
The club were said to have accepted a bid from Newcastle for the winger, only for him to reject the move.
The former Chelsea man, who has endured a torrid time in Spain, was rewarded for his persistence with a coolly taken winner, adding to an assist in his previous outing.
Hazard had only two goal involvements in his prior 17 games in all competitions.
Elche errors costly
Carrillo was not the only home player to fall short when it mattered most.
Diego Gonzalez played Isco well onside as his team-mates appealed for offside, having retreated to block an initial opening, then Werner rushed out and made Hazard's task just a little more simple.
Key Opta facts
- Real Madrid have reached the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey for the fifth time in the last six seasons, failing only last season (eliminated in the third round by Alcoyano).
- Isco has scored his first Copa de Rey goal for Real Madrid since December 2018 against Melilla, when he scored two goals.
- Luka Jovic has not scored in any of his 13 starts for Real Madrid in all competitions. Against Elche, he did not manage any shots, something that has already happened to him in four games as a starter.
These two do battle again back at the Bernabeu in LaLiga on Sunday, giving Elche little time to lift themselves for a testing fixture.