It was St Paddy’s day at Loftus Road as a Paddy McNair double sent Sunderland into the fourth round of the EFL Cup.
The Black Cats controlled the opening 45 minutes and made a bright start to the second period, but they were unable to find a way past Queens Park Rangers who made them pay on 60 minutes.
Sandro was the scorer as the Brazilian’s laser-guided volley nestled into the corner. The drama was far from over, though, and following a triple change Sunderland reasserted their dominance as McNair took centre stage and levelled with 20 minutes remaining.
And just like London buses the Northern Ireland midfielder grabbed his second soon after, reaching his destination at the perfect time to stroll onto a loose ball and fire Sunderland into the fourth round.
Sunderland boss Moyes selected a strong starting XI at Loftus Road as Jordan Pickford, Jason Denayer, Papy Djilobodji and Jan Kirchhoff retained their places from Sunday’s defeat at White Hart Lane.
Patrick van Aanholt returned to the side after missing out against Spurs as Joel Asoro started his second consecutive game in the EFL Cup.
Sunderland made a bright start to the game with Pickford firing a trademark pass towards England under-21 team-mate Duncan Watmore. The direct winger rode a number of challenges before breaking into the box where a heavy touch fortunately fell to the feet of Asoro, but the 17-year-old Swede fired wide after being caught off balance.
After dominating the ball, the Black Cats were forced to chase possession in the minutes that followed as the home side relaxed into the contest, but they were almost caught off-guard in the 12th minute as Sunderland produced a breath-taking counter attack.
A towering header from Kirchhoff started the move as Watmore flicked the ball into the path of Ndong who powered through the gears, with the midfielder carrying the ball into the final third before returning the favour to Watmore.
The winger breezed past one and skipped past another, ignoring a clever run from Asoro in the process, and it almost paid off as he pulled the trigger to force Matt Ingram into a superb save.
As the opening 45 minutes progressed the game opened up with both sides trying their luck from range, but the next big chance came from inside the box as Abdenasser El Khayati forced a low stop from Pickford.
Gabon international Ndong continued his impressive start to his Sunderland career with a moment of magic on 27 minutes, chopping the ball back onto his left foot to deceive two QPR defenders before Kirchhoff’s volley was turned behind by Ingram.
Joel Lynch headed wide soon after with Asoro gliding down the right before testing Ingram as an engrossing 45 minutes came to a close.
Sunderland started the second period with a flurry of opportunities after Djilobodji’s wayward effort deflected behind for a corner. van Aanholt looped it to the back post where McNair plucked it out of the air before seeing a deflected shot cleared off the line, with the second set piece resulting in Kirchhoff’s header being blocked.
In need of a lift, the home supporters rallied and their side responded with their best opening of the game as Conor Washington headed wide from six yards.
And as Big Ben chimed at 9pm, Loftus Road erupted.
Sandro, who scored twice in the second round against Rochdale, grabbed the goal in spectacular fashion, feathering a volley into the side netting from the edge of box after a cleared corner landed at the Brazilian’s feet.
Sunderland responded with a triple substitute as Josh Maja – making his debut – Donald Love and Lee Cattermole entered the game, and within 60 seconds the Black Cats were level.
Making his first appearance since August, Northern Ireland youngster McNair powered into the box and showed terrific determination to beat his man to the ball before firing into the corner.
With honours even in the capital the Lads went in search of a winner, with standout performer Ndong bossing the midfield while also popping up on the right flank.
And it was the 22-year-old’s flair which opened up the home side and created the chance to seize victory, with Ingram’s save dropping into the path of McNair who made no mistake.
QPR rallied in the latter stages with Tjaronn Chery firing high and wide as time ticked away, but Sunderland deservedly progressed.
Sunderland: Pickford, Denayer (Love, 68), van Aanholt, O’Shea, Djilobodji, McNair, Kirchhoff, Ndong, Watmore, Gooch (Cattermole, 68), Asoro (Maja, 68).
Subs not used: Mika, Kone, Jones, Greenwood.
QPR: Ingram, Lynch, Cousins (Chery, 84), Washington (Luongo, 79), Wszolek, El Khayati, Caulker, Sandro, Kakay, Hamalainen, Sylla (Polter, 74).
Subs not used: Smithies, Onuoha, Borysiuk, Paul.