Gardner and McClean strike to earn Black Cats a win at stadium:mk.Goals from Craig Gardner and James McClean gave Sunderland victory in their only previous encounter with the Dons in last season’s Capital One Cup Third Round.
Lee Cattermole was dismissed in the first-half for the visitors but the Black Cats’ superior quality shone through in the second.
Louis Saha was making his first start for Sunderland and he missed a couple of early chances as the Wearsiders looked the more likely to open the scoring.
The home side had the best chance of the first half when a short corner caught Sunderland off guard and Stephen Gleeson's shot whistled wide from the edge of the area.
Cattermole saw red when he took a heavy touch in a charge forward from midfield and lunged into young full-back Chicksen as he attempted to win the ball back.
Black Cats keeper Keiren Westwood had to tip over Darren Potter's long-range effort early in the second half before Gardner gave the Black Cats the lead.
The former Birmingham man’s perfectly-struck free kick sailed past Ian McLoughlin to earn his side the advantage.
Ryan Lowe then went close to equalising for the Dons before McClean wrapped up the victory with a fine individual effort.
Sunderland: Westwood, Kilgallon, Rose, Cattermole, Gardner, Colback, Vaughan, Meyler, McClean, Sessegnon (Johnson, 85), Saha.
Subs not used: Mignolet, Egan, Campbell, Wickham, Ji Dong-Won, Fletcher.