Black Cats through to FA Cup quarter-finals.
A thunderbolt from Craig Gardner saw off Southampton and booked Sunderland’s place in the last eight of the FA Cup with Budweiser.
The midfielder plundered the winner with a fine strike four minutes into the second half to settle the fourth clash between these two sides this season.
Gardner’s third goal of the season was a fine one – a rising drive from outside the box which found the net off the underside of the crossbar.
Both sides had chances in a competitive encounter, but it was Sunderland who came out on top to make it eight wins in cup ties this season.
And they deserved the victory, with Nacho Scocco particularly impressive on his debut after joining the club last month.
Gus Poyet opted to make nine changes with only John O’Shea and Fabio Borini remaining from the team which started against Hull.
As expected, Scocco came in and was joined in the starting line-up by fellow Argentinians Oscar Ustari and Santiago Vergini.
Meanwhile, Gardner, Ondrej Celustka, Andrea Dossena and Emanuele Giaccherini all returned, while Seb Larsson and Lee Cattermole made their 100th career starts for the club.
The visitors, who made six alterations of their own, struggled to get on the ball early on as Sunderland – playing two up front – got men forward.
But the away side created the first chance 11 minutes in, with Ustari getting down well to claim James Ward-Prowse’s scuffed shot after Rickie Lambert had nodded down Adam Lallana’s cross.
Sunderland had a penalty shout turned down soon afterwards, with referee Mike Dean waving away the appeals when Borini went down under a challenge from Luke Shaw on the right-hand edge of the box.
Despite getting plenty of deliveries into the penalty area, Sunderland couldn’t get a clear sight of goal against a Southampton side who have conceded just 16 league goals on the road this term.
Gardner saw a powerful drive from the edge of the box deflected over the top eight minutes before the break, while a powerful effort from the impressive Giaccherini was blocked moments later.
Vergini was called into action at the other end to prevent the Saints going in one up at the break, producing a super tackle to clear the ball behind with Lambert looking set to slide home Nathaniel Clyne’s cross.
But the match was lit up by a moment of brilliance four minutes into the second period as Sunderland surged into the lead.
Scocco did well down the right only to be dispossessed, but the ball ran to Gardner who jinked past Victor Wanyama and advanced before crashing a fine shot in off the underside of the crossbar from just outside the box.
It was a stunning finish from the midfielder, with Southampton keeper Kelvin Davis left with no chance at full stretch.
Gardner was inches away from another chance when he just failed to get on the end of a super ball over the top after Steven Davis had fired into the side-netting at the other end.
Scocco made way for Connor Wickham with 21 minutes to play, receiving a richly-deserved ovation from the home crowd following an impressive debut.
And Wickham was soon in the thick of the action, narrowly denied when trying to poke a Larsson cross through the legs of Davis from close range.
Gardner then fired straight at Davis before Marcos Alonso replaced Dossena for the final 13 minutes of a competitive second half.
Southampton were far from out of the contest, with Lallana touching a Clyne cross wide at the near post before Lambert spurned a golden chance to equalise 10 minutes from time.
Clyne once again got down the right and supplied a perfect low cross for his colleague, who somehow lifted the ball over an open goal from just three yards out.
Poyet replaced goalscorer Gardner with Jack Colback just after Lambert’s miss, and his side had chances to kill the game on the break as the visitors pushed forward in search of an equaliser.
Good work from Wickham set up a three-on-one break four minutes from time, but the striker opted to shoot and fired just wide with Borini unmarked in the middle.
Then some neat interplay carved out an opportunity for Borini in the box and the Italian got plenty of power behind his shot, but Davis was equal to it and tipped the ball away to his left.
The second goal just wouldn’t come – but it didn’t matter in the end as Gardner’s goal proved enough to move Sunderland within just one tie of another Wembley appearance.
- Dossena (Alonso)
- Yellow Larsson
- Gardner (Colback)
- Scocco (Wickham)
- Yoshida Yellow
- Do Prado (Rodriguez)
- Ward-Prowse (Schneiderlin)
- Lallana (McQueen)
- Davis Yellow
- Rodriguez Yellow