Romain Saiss produced a header that watching Wolves team-mate Raul Jimenez would have been proud of to deny Tottenham victory at Molineux, and a place in the top-four.
Jose Mourinho’s men led for 85 minutes after Tanguy Ndombele had driven home a low 20-yard shot from Ben Davies’ lay-off after just 57 seconds.
But, just as it appeared their dominance would earn no reward in the continued absence of Jimenez – attending a game for the first time since fracturing his skull at Arsenal at the end of November – Wolves struck an equaliser.
Morocco defender Saiss met Pedro Neto’s corner at the near post with a superb glancing header to steer the ball past Hugo Lloris.
It was the least Wolves deserved after their efforts at shackling Harry Kane and Son Heung-min.
Spurs’ star duo rarely got a clean sight of goal and, although Sergio Reguilon might have made the game safe for Tottenham, they paid the price for retreating too far into their shell.
After the game, Mourinho said it was never his intention to defend the slender lead and instead questioned his players for not showing more ambition to go for more goals.
He told BBC Sport: “Defending deep, that’s not the intention. They know what I asked them at half-time, if they couldn’t do better it’s because they couldn’t do better.”
Mourinho added: “We are frustrated with the result. We had control of the game, but we had 89 minutes to score more goals and we didn’t.
“It was not just about not scoring goals, it was also about not being dangerous and not being ambitious. For me, that’s the problem.”
Tottenham, who would have gone third with the win, move to fifth, splitting the two Manchester clubs, who both have a match in hand.
Wolves are 11th and might have won it in the final minute of injury-time when Fabio Silva headed straight at Lloris.
Wolves in transition
While Jimenez’s presence was poignant for the hosts, that defenders Jonny Otto and Willy Boly were with him in the same executive box as they recover from injury was significant.
With Matt Doherty playing against his old club for Spurs and Diogo Jota now at Liverpool, half of what would be considered as Nuno Espirito Santo’s preferred team from the past two seasons was not available to him.
As Nuno has implemented a new style of play as well, there was an element of transition about this season even without the injury to Jimenez.
Since the Mexican striker’s injury, Wolves have won one of five matches.
Wolves were excellent in possession but their attacks petered out in the final third. Daniel Podence brought a decent save out of Lloris before the break and both Silva and Neto threatened the Tottenham goal.
Wolves are looking for a striker but a loan inquiry for Real Madrid’s Luka Jovic looks destined to fail.
In the meantime, they are living off scraps, such as the second-half penalty claim for a foul on Silva by Eric Dier that was rejected by VAR.
Some Wolves fans are getting impatient, which is harsh in the extreme, especially when they retain the character and determination that Nuno has spent so long building and which earned them a point when all appeared lost.
“I think we performed really well, I think we played a very good game. The result is the consequence,” Nuno said.
“We conceded very early in the game, but the team reacted and we played well, very intense, very aggressive against a very dangerous side, very good, very talented. But we played well. I’m happy.”
When Tottenham played Burnley last March in the game immediately before lockdown, Ndombele was hauled off at half-time, with Mourinho complaining afterwards the midfielder had failed to follow instructions.
The halt to the season created a three-month void which was filled by endless chatter about the France midfielder’s future.
Speculation grew so intense, Spurs eventually responded, letting it be known their £53.8m record signing was going nowhere.
That faith has been rewarded this term. For, while Kane and Son have attracted all the attention, Ndombele has started delivering the performances his price-tag demands.
Rui Patricio did not cover himself in glory for Ndombele’s goal – but the strike means the former Lyon man has already matched the total from his debut campaign. Amazingly, it was only the fourth Spurs goal this season that has not involved Kane or Son.
The charge out of defence that followed not long afterwards was majestic, taking him from one penalty area to the other, the only disappointment coming through Reguilon’s failure to finish as he drove his shot straight at Patricio in the Wolves goal.
Spanish full-back Reguilon had already glanced a header wider by that point but after that, Ndombele’s best work was through holding his position and not allowing the Wolves attack to come through.
Mind you, when he brought the midfielder’s evening to an end 20 minutes from time, Mourinho jumped out of the dugout to deliver instructions and completely ignored the man he had brought off, providing the era of tough love is not at an end.
As it turned out, the job was not complete.
Spurs’ late woes – the stats
- Spurs have dropped nine points in 2020/21 with goals conceded in the last 10 minutes of matches, the most of any side in the Premier League.
- Since the start of the 2018-19 season, only Liverpool (45) and Manchester United (44) have won more points from losing positions in the Premier League than Wolves (40).
- Spurs are now winless in four Premier League matches, their worst run since a four-game run between February and June earlier this year.
- Since having 18 shots in the second half of their game against West Brom, Spurs have just 22 shots in the second half of their last seven Premier League matches, mustering just one attempt in the second half of this match.
- Four of Saiss’ last five Premier League goals for Wolves have been headers scored via a corner.
- Wolves conceded after only 57 seconds, the earliest goal they had conceded in the Premier League since April 2012 against Swansea City (Andrea Orlandi, 22 seconds).
- Tottenham scored their 11th Premier League goal in the opening minute of a match – only Chelsea (12) have scored more first-minute Premier League goals.
- Wolves’ starting XI for this match featured seven Portuguese players (Patricio, Nelson Semedo, Neto, Joao Moutinho, Silva, Podence and Ruben Neves), the joint-most non-English players from the same country in a team’s starting XI in Premier League history: Fulham had seven French players in their XI vs Middlesbrough in 2003, and Newcastle had seven Frenchmen vs Liverpool in 2013.
Wolves have a quick turnaround to their next game and visit Old Trafford to face Manchester United on Tuesday, 29 December (20:00 GMT). Tottenham have a bit longer to prepare for their home London derby with Fulham on Wednesday, 30 December (18:00 GMT).
- 11Rui Patrício
- 22Nélson SemedoBooked at 70mins
- 16CoadyBooked at 58mins
- 5MarçalBooked at 68minsSubstituted forAït-Nouriat 75′minutes
- 28João MoutinhoSubstituted forOtasowieat 83′minutes
- 10PodenceBooked at 46minsSubstituted forVitinhaat 90+1′minutes
- 17Fábio Silva
- 6D Sánchez
- 8WinksBooked at 45mins
- 3ReguilónSubstituted forBergwijnat 63′minutes
- 28NdombeleSubstituted forSissokoat 70′minutes
- 7Son Heung-MinSubstituted forLamelaat 84′minutes
Match ends, Wolverhampton Wanderers 1, Tottenham Hotspur 1.
Second Half ends, Wolverhampton Wanderers 1, Tottenham Hotspur 1.
Corner, Tottenham Hotspur. Conceded by Nélson Semedo.
Attempt saved. Fábio Silva (Wolverhampton Wanderers) header from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Rúben Neves.
Conor Coady (Wolverhampton Wanderers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur).
Foul by Romain Saïss (Wolverhampton Wanderers).
Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Vitinha replaces Daniel Podence.
Attempt missed. Fábio Silva (Wolverhampton Wanderers) right footed shot from the right side of the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Adama Traoré.
Goal! Wolverhampton Wanderers 1, Tottenham Hotspur 1. Romain Saïss (Wolverhampton Wanderers) header from the right side of the six yard box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Pedro Neto with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Conceded by Ben Davies.
Pedro Neto (Wolverhampton Wanderers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Erik Lamela (Tottenham Hotspur).
Substitution, Tottenham Hotspur. Erik Lamela replaces Son Heung-Min.
Substitution, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Owen Otasowie replaces João Moutinho.
Corner, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Conceded by Eric Dier.
Adama Traoré (Wolverhampton Wanderers) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Ben Davies (Tottenham Hotspur).
Attempt saved. Rúben Neves (Wolverhampton Wanderers) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner.