Aaron Ramsey returned to the place where he spent 9 previous years learning his football education.
Ninian Park was the venue for Arsenal’s tie with Cardiff and it proved to be a hotly-fought contest in which many chances were squandered.
Cardiff City Starting XI
McNaughton – Rae – Gyepes – Parry
Johnson – Ledley – Kennedy – Burke
Bothroyd – McCormack
Arsenal Starting XI
Sagna – Toure – Djourou – Gibbs
Eboue – Ramsey – Song – Nasri
Bendtner – van Persie
Dave Jones’ players, who had claimed many a scalp there in Coca-Cola Championship action this term, clearly thought so and put Arsenal under pressure from the start.
The opening minutes saw McCormack twice come close from good positions, first with a header then with a shot across goal after fellow Scot Chris Burke had seen a drive blocked by Kolo Toure.
The chances continued to rack up with Jay Bothroyd firing over from distance, Joe Ledley launching a volley that was also too high and Paul Parry failing to hit the target after his trickery had left Toure on the turf.
The home fans were loving every minute of it but also had the niggling worry that so many misses might prove costly.
That was almost the case in the 21st minute when Arsenal finally created something of note at the other end – but when Robin van Persie gave Samir Nasri a sight of goal on the left of the box City goalkeeper Peter Enckelman came out to make a fine block.
The home side found it impossible to keep up the early high tempo but Arsenal could only muster snatched shots from distance by Alexandre Song and Kieron Gibbs, who was in at left-back for the suspended Gael Clichy.
Enckelman was required again to get behind a van Persie snap-shot before referee Martin Atkinson became the half’s central figure near the end.
First he booked Emmanuel Eboue for a blatant dive in the City box before waving play on at the other end when a back-post header by the diminutive Burke appeared to hit Gibbs on an arm.
Ledley then had a shot blocked before a counter attack ended with an Arsenal corner from which Nicklas Bendtner – picked up front ahead of Emmanuel Adebayor – headed wastefully wide from close range.
The second half began more evenly with Parry out-jumping Bakary Sagna to plant a header into the hands of goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski’s hands and van Persie coming close with a long-range free-kick at the other end.
A disappointing return for former Cardiff midfielder Aaron Ramsey ended just before the hour mark when he was replaced by Abou Diaby.
Cardiff carried on where they left off with McCormack forcing Fabianski into a diving save with a fierce long-range effort and defender Roger Johnson heading over from the corner.
Van Persie forced Enckelman into another save with a shot on the turn as an entertaining game remained in the balance.
Adebayor came on for Eboue for the final 25 minutes and immediately van Persie saw another near-post effort blocked and scrambled away.
There was a chance for Adebayor when van Persie’s cross was deflected beyond the back post but the substitute fired tamely at the goalkeeper.
Nasri came close with a curling shot destined for the top corner – but again Enckelman was equal to the effort.
Cardiff quite fancied a replay by this point, replacing winger Burke with defender Tony Capaldi.
But McCormack almost had the final say when his 30-yard free kick beat the flying Fabianski but clipped the crossbar before going over.
Arsenal or Cardiff will face either Burnley or West Brom in the Last 16 of the FA Cup.
Report from ITV Football.