Mark Mann-Bryans, PA
Norwich reached the fifth round of the FA Cup for just the second time in a decade as Kenny McLean’s header was enough to see off Wolves in a drab affair at Molineux.
With potential fairytales and cup magic up for grabs elsewhere, this was a forgettable meeting between two top-tier outfits, with the 1-0 victory for the visitors putting them in the hat for Sunday’s draw.
Wolves are 18 points better off in the Premier League than Norwich but there was very little difference in quality here as Dean Smith’s side defended valiantly – and scrappily – at times to advance.
The respective team selections arguably showed where priorities were being focused, Norwich knowing the importance of the visit of Crystal Palace on Wednesday as they aim to avoid Premier League relegation.
As a result, Smith made five alterations – including Josh Sargent dropping out shortly before kick-off due to illness, replaced in the side by Przemyslaw Placheta.
Wolves are on a good run of league form and retained all of their outfield players from the 2-1 win at Brentford, with former Canaries goalkeeper John Ruddy coming in for their only change.
A quiet start saw Ruddy called into action as he saved well from Adam Idah with the only real chance of the opening 45 minutes.
But he was beaten in first-half stoppage time as Milot Rashica was fouled by Max Kilman and McLean’s looped header from Billy Gilmour’s free-kick nestled in the far corner.
Wolves were much brighter after the interval, breaking forward with more intent and rattling the visitors.
Daniel Podence hit the post with a shot from just inside the box as Michael McGovern was wrong-footed, the Northern Ireland goalkeeper then keeping out a Nelson Semedo shot as Wolves swarmed.
The threat was dampened as Brandon Williams made a fine challenge to take the ball away from Fabio Silva but Norwich were struggling to get out of their own half.
Bruno Lage turned to Raul Jimenez just after the hour but it was full-back Rayan Ait Nouri who was next to test McGovern.
The visitors, meanwhile, replaced the industrious Idah with the more prolific Teemu Pukki but it was defensive duties that were the order of the day at this point.
A rare foray forward for Norwich led to a chance for Rashica but Semedo was on hand to make a brave block.
While Wolves pressed, Smith’s side were still creating the better chances as Pukki squared the ball for fellow substitute Kieran Dowell, whose low shot was turned behind by Ruddy.
The hosts could not muster a way through in the closing stages as Norwich toasted a rare double – a fifth-round place and just a second win at Molineux in 27 years.