For the second season running Albion left the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium feeling a sense of injustice after Spurs came from behind to snatch victory in the seventh minute of stoppage time.
There weren’t the VAR and refereeing controversies which marked the 2-1 loss last April, just a feeling that Albion’s excellent performance deserved much more.
Pascal Gross gave us the lead with a 19th-minute penalty, a reward for an enterprising first-half performance.
Pape Matar Sarr equalised after 61 minutes but it was Albion who looked like taking all three points in the closing stages with Ansu Fati hitting the outside of the post.
Instead, with the six allocated minutes of stoppage time already played, substitute Brennan Johnson finished off a counter-attack to leave crestfallen Albion players slumped on the turf.
With Roberto De Zerbi recovering from dental surgery in Italy, his assistant Andrea Maldera was in charge. There were five changes to the team which beat Crystal Palace with Jason Steele, Adam Lallana, Pervis Estupinan, Danny Welbeck and Kaoru Mitoma, making his first appearance since 21 December, coming in.
Both De Zerbi and his number two would have been delighted with Albion’s start and the lead given to them by Gross was richly deserved. After just 50 seconds Welbeck, who lead Albion’s press so effectively throughout, broke inside after being found by Tariq Lamptey down the right. He went for the far corner and forced Guglielmo Vicario to turn his left-foot shot away at full stretch.
With Mitoma and Estupinan in harness down the left together for the first time since the end of September Albion had another potent attacking outlet but it was Welbeck who won the penalty, drawing a clumsy foul from Micky van der Ven after good work by Gross and Facundo Buonanotte when Albion once again broke Spurs’ press. With Joao absent, Gross stepped up and sent Vicario the wrong way from the spot.
Spurs stirred. Jason Steele spread himself to block Richarlison’s shot and James Maddison curled a right-footer inches wide but Welbeck won the ball back again on the half-hour and Mitoma was in down the left but Vicario spread himself to push the shot away at full stretch.
Jan Paul van Hecke did a highly effective marking job on Maddison all afternoon and the Dutchman also made two important blocks inside a minute to frustrate Richarlison. Albion, however, deserved their interval advantage.
Timo Werner fired a yard wide after a strong run in Tottenham’s first salvo of the second half and just past the hour the hosts equalised, although they had a huge slice of fortune in doing so when Sarr’s cross deflected off Lewis Dunk’s outstretched leg and onto the post, rebounding to Sarr who swept it inside the far post.
The arrival from the bench of Heung-Min Son a few moments later raised the decibel levels a further notch but with Fati on for Lallana Albion were still very much in the contest.
Steele gratefully pounced on Johnson’s low drive before Albion responded impressively and Fati was inches away from restoring their lead with 14 minutes to go. Mitoma fed the ball into a crowded six-yard box and Fati swept it goalwards, the ball kissing the outside of the post via van de Ven’s deflection in front of the visiting fans. Albion broke again and Sarr blocked Buonanotte’s shot with Lamptey screaming for a pass on the outside in yards of space.
Albion looked more likely to snatch a winner. Substitute Benicio Baker-Boaitey flashed a shot wide but then came heartbreak. Richarlison led a break, fed Son and his low cross was swept in by fellow substitute Johnson at the far post. An Albion performance to be proud of, despite the cruel finale.
Albion: Steele, Lamptey (Baleba 90+1), Dunk, van Hecke, Estupinan; Gross, Gilmour (Baker-Boaitey 90+1), Buonanotte (Veltman 83), Lallana (Fati 57), Mitoma, Welbeck (Ferguson 83).
Subs not used: Verbruggen, Webster, Moder, O’Mahony.
Referee: Sam Barrott
Attendance: 61,445 (3022 Albion fans)