Black Cats secure fourth-round spot with home win.
Sunderland booked their place in the fourth round of the FA Cup with Budweiser by seeing off a spirited Carlisle outfit on Wearside.
Adam Johnson’s stylish free-kick was cancelled out by Matty Robson as the sides went in level at half time.
Sean O’Hanlon’s own goal five minutes into the second period saw Sunderland move ahead again before a debut strike from El Hadji Ba in the final minute of normal time wrapped things up.
Credit to League One Carlisle, who were backed by a big travelling support and caused the hosts some problems in the first half.
But Sunderland didn’t look back following O’Hanlon’s own goal and Ba’s composed finish secured them a home tie against either Peterborough or Kidderminster.
Along with Ba, Duncan Watmore also impressed on his senior debut as a second-half substitute, causing the Carlisle defence plenty of issues and almost grabbing himself a goal.
The youngster was included in a first-team squad for the first time as Gus Poyet named a strong side featuring six changes, including the return of Wes Brown at centre-back following a three-match ban.
Adam Johnson, Seb Larsson, Andrea Dossena, Craig Gardner and Jozy Altidore also stepped in against a Carlisle side bossed by former Sunderland midfielder Graham Kavanagh.
The Black Cats had the better of the early chances, with Gardner twice firing off-target from just outside the box either side of a 17th-minute chance for Altidore.
The American was released by a pinpoint through ball from Johnson but was denied by a good block from Carlisle keeper Greg Fleming.
After a shaky start, the visitors – backed by more than 5,500 travelling fans – began to find their feet a little.
Prince Buaben tested Vito Mannone as the midway point of the first half approached, twisting and turning inside the box before getting away a low shot which the Italian deftly turned around the post at full stretch.
But Sunderland were finding plenty of room to get forward and quickly regained the initiative.
Gardner was denied by a good save from Fleming and Altidore hooked wide from close range before Larsson’s curling free-kick flashed inches beyond Ji Dong-won’s outstretched boot in prime position.
The first goal was always going to be key and Sunderland deservedly got their noses in front just after the half-hour.
Gardner was fouled by David Amoo 22 yards out and Johnson’s free-kick was picture-perfect, arcing beyond the Carlisle wall and into the corner of the net beyond Fleming’s despairing dive.
Unbowed, Carlisle hit back and almost had an equaliser eight minutes before the break when a deep cross struck the covering Ondrej Celustka and squeezed just wide of the post.
And the visitors did level five minutes later. Amoo’s searching cross to the back post was knocked down by Lewis Guy for Robson, who hammered a shot in off the crossbar to the delight of the visiting fans.
The game was poised at the break, with the sides going in level after Mannone saved James Berrett’s deflected effort just before the half-time whistle.
But Sunderland again regained the initiative with a second goal five minutes into the second period.
Larsson’s lofted crossfield ball was knocked into the box first time by Johnson, who saw his cross strike O’Hanlon and loop into the far corner beyond a helpless Fleming.
Defender O’Hanlon, looking to atone for the own goal, met a free-kick with a header at the other end soon afterwards, but the effort was well off-target.
Poyet handed youngster Watmore a debut off the bench just after the hour in place of Ji, while Ki was replaced by Phil Bardsley.
And it was almost a dream debut for the youngster, who certainly caught the imagination of the crowd with his driving runs down the flanks and came close shortly after coming on.
A neat exchange of passes with Altidore saw the winger stride beyond the Carlisle defence, and he pulled the trigger only for the advancing Fleming to block well.
Sunderland were comfortable and continued to enjoy the lion’s share of the possession, with Celustka testing Fleming with a powerful drive from the right-hand edge of the box.
Ba joined Watmore in making his competitive debut when he was introduced nine minutes from time as Sunderland looked to close the game out.
And the French youngster responded in style with a goal in the 90th minute.
It was a neat team effort with Johnson and Altidore combining to play in the midfielder, who held off a sliding challenge to slot the ball between Fleming and the post to seal Sunderland’s place in the fourth round.
Sunderland - Johnson (34) O'Hanlon OG (50), Ba (90)
Carlisle - Robson (43)
- Ki (Bardsley)
- Larsson (Ba)
- Ji (Watmore)
- O'Hanlon Yellow
- Noble (Symington)
- Lawrence (Townsend)
- Guy (Miller)