The FA Cup third round took centre stage this past weekend, as the heavyweights from English football's top two divisions joined those still standing from the lesser leagues in a swathe of compelling clashes across the country.
For Norwich City's Adam Idah, it was a start to the year he'll never forget. The 18-year-old became the youngest player to net a hat-trick for the Canaries when he struck three times in their 4-2 triumph away at Preston North End, marking his second start for the club in some style.
"It's a great start to the year for me, I'm over the moon to get a hat-trick," Idah told the club's official website. "Even to start the game was unbelievable."
Idah had appeared destined for a loan spell away from Norwich during the second half of the campaign, after playing just one minute in the English Premier League this term, against Crystal Palace on New Year's Day, but he could now capitalise on a series of injuries to their outstanding strikers.
Idah's treble means he's the first teenager to score three in one game in the competition since Leicester City's Kelechi Iheanacho, who achieved the feat for Manchester City against Aston Villa four years ago.
The Republic of Ireland Under-21 international, who remains eligible for Nigeria via his father, opened the scoring in the second minute with a calm finish, added a second from range before half-time, and completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot -- after he was brought down -- just after the hour-mark.
"To get an early goal was unbelievable, it brings up my confidence," the youngster said. "Then to get another two goals was great for me."
While Idah will now be relishing the Fourth Round after Norwich were drawn against Burnley, could he retain his spot in the side for the weekend's trip to Manchester United?
"That's what I'm working towards," he said. "And if I get more opportunities I'll take them."
At Reading, another Nigerian talent -- Nathan Delfouneso - scored his fourth goal of the competition when he opened the scoring for Blackpool in their 2-2 draw with the Royals, while Philip Billing and Dominic Solanke -- both of whom remain eligible for the Super Eagles -- netted as Bournemouth thumped Luton Town 4-0 to set up a Fourth Round tie with Arsenal.
Solanke's close-range strike ended his year-long wait for a maiden Bournemouth goal, with the 22-year-old struggling to make his mark after arriving from Liverpool.
"I hope it's the first of many," Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe said.
"Performance wise I think [Dominic] has been very good, but he has not had that confirmed by goals."
At Bristol City, Senegal's Famara Diedhiou netted a 30th-minute opener against Shrewsbury Town of the third tier, but the Robins weren't able to see out the tie and will now face a replay.
In the comeback of the round, League One Tranmere Rovers battled back from three goals down to claim a 3-3 draw with Premier League Watford at Vicarage Road.
Cameroon's Manny Monthe netted the second for the Prenton Pups, who will now host the Hornets on the Wirral in a replay later this month.
The Douala-born defender has worked his way back up to the professional game via non-league football having been axed by Queens Park Rangers as a youngster.
Elsewhere, Jordan Ayew's Crystal Palace crashed out of the competition following defeat by Derby County, while Christian Atsu's assist wasn't enough for Newcastle United to beat lowly Rochdale, and they must rely on a replay to progress.
Across the pond
There was also cup action across France this weekend, with the big boys paired off with the minnows in the Coupe de France.
Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique Lyonnais made light work of their opponents, defeating Linas Montlhery 6-0 and Bourg en Bresse Peronnas 7-0 respectively.
Adil Aouchiche and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting -- with his second goal in two games -- bookended the scoring for PSG, while Maxwel Cornet and Houssem Aouar were among the goals for OL.
Senegal's Keita Balde was Africa's star performer of the weekend in France, striking twice in the second half, including a controversial late winner, as AS Monaco defeated Stade de Reims 2-1 to ensure new coach Robert Moreno got off to a winning start.
"There was a handball from Keita Balde," Reims coach David Guion complained [as per L'Equipe]. "If we'd had VAR, the goal would have been ruled out. [The officials] need the courage to signal for [the handball] at this point in the game."
However, not all of the heavyweights had things entirely their own way.
Victor Osimhen played 13 minutes as LOSC Lille survived a late comeback to defeat Raon l'Etape 3-2 away, while Abdoulaye Diaby stunned Olympique de Marseille in the first minute with an opener for fourth-tier Trelissac, who held OM 1-1 before falling in a penalty shootout.
In Italy, Serie A resumed after the winter break with big wins for the top two, although Internazionale surely benefited from the absence of Kalidou Koulibaly -- ruled out with a muscle injury -- as they won 3-1 at Napoli.
Ola Aina excelled as Torino moved up to ninth with a 2-0 victory at AS Roma; two-goal hero Andrea Belotti stole the headlines, but Cameroon's Nicolas Nkoulou also deserves immense credit for a resolute display in the heart of the defence.
Despite playing in the middle of a three-man backline, the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations winner completed more successful dribbles than any other Torino player, and he ended the match with three interceptions and seven clearances.
Pedro Obiang also scored for Sassuolo, but they were defeated 2-1 by Genoa to remain five points off the drop zone.
Finally, to Spain, where Djene Dakonam, Allan Nyom and Faycal Fajr were powerless to stop Real Madrid running out 3-0 winners against Getafe in La Liga to move level on points with leaders Barcelona.
The result dents Getafe's top six hopes, with Valencia overtaking them following a 1-0 victory over Eibar, with Mouctar Diakhaby starring in the hosts' backline.
As well as a goal-saving tackle, the Franco-Guinean defender managed six clearances, was imperious in the air, and consistently demonstrated his intelligence and poise in possession.
Wolverhampton Wanderers had a €40 million bid for the 23-year-old rejected in the summer, but on this evidence, Diakhaby would be a valuable January transfer-window addition for any of the Premier League heavyweights seeking European qualification this season.
Elsewhere, Thomas Partey picked up a first-half booking as Atletico Madrid beat Levante 2-1, while Zou Feddal was shown a straight red card for a professional foul late in Real Betis's away meeting with Wakaso Mubarak's Deportivo Alaves; the sides played out a 1-1 draw that moves both slightly further away from the drop zone.