Max Power’s stunning strike saw Sunderland claim another Premier League scalp as they saw off Sheffield United to book their place in the last 16 of the Carabao Cup.
And the Wearsiders – who made eight changes for the cup tie – went on to keep their first clean sheet of the campaign in any competition.
Sunderland, who won at top flight Burnley in the previous round, and their manager Jack Ross had come under fire from fans in the wake of their weekend draw against League One basement side Bolton Wanderers, but this was a heroic performance against a side two divisions above them and it was cheered to the rafters by the travelling fans.
Ross’ eight changes meant Tom Flanagan, Luke O’Nien, and Chris Maguire, were the only men retained from the side that started at Bolton.
There were debuts for new signings Joel Lynch and Laurens De Bock, with Lynch partnering Flanagan in central defence while on-loan Leeds United man De Bock slotted in at left-back.
Goalkeeper Lee Burge, Conor McLaughlin, Dylan McGeouch, Elliot Embleton, Charlie Wyke, and Power came into the side.
The men to make way were Jon McLaughlin, Denver Hume, George Dobson, Grant Leadbitter, Lynden Gooch, and Will Grigg, who were all rested, while Jordan Willis and Aiden McGeady missed out through injury.
Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder made 10 changes to the side that won at Everton on Saturday, with striker Callum Robinson the only constant.
The Blades put Sunderland under pressure in the early stages, with Burge making a fine diving save from Robinson, and then a more routine stop from Luke Freeman.
And Burge came to the Black Cats’ rescue in the eighth minute when skipper Flanagan tried to pass the ball out of his own penalty area but only succeeded in giving it straight to Robinson, but the keeper was quickly off his line to make a block and then clear the danger before the visitors could manage a follow-up shot.
And instead it was Sunderland who took the lead a minute later from their first meaningful attack of the game.
They won a corner on the right which was taken by Maguire, his driven set-piece found O’Nien on the edge of the box and he laid it off to Power who stepped round one defender and hit a rocket shot into the top left-hand corner.
Embleton almost made it 2-0 on the quarter-hour, but Simon Moore managed to get down to his right to push his shot away and Wyke could not get to the loose ball.
Lys Mousset was inches away from making contact with a low cross from Robinson, and Ravel Morrison saw a tame effort easily saved by Burge.
And on the stroke of half-time, Burge beat away a shot from Mousset from a tight angle.
Embleton picked up an injury right at the end of the half and did not emerge after the break, with Hume brought on to play on the left wing.
And Hume set up an excellent chance when he got to the byline on the left and cut the ball back for O’Nien on the edge of the six yard box, he had time to control but then rifled his shot into the sidenetting.
Sheffield dominated the ball in the second half but rarely tested Burge, with Sunderland largely able to keep them at arm’s length.
The Black Cats had to weather heavy pressure in the final ten minutes, but still Burge was relatively untroubled with Richard Stearman slicing a shot wide from range while sub Leon Clarke dragged a shot across the face of goal with the aid of a deflection when he had a clear sight of goal.
SHEFFIELD UNITED: Moore, Jagielka, Stearman, Bryan (Fleck 70), K Freeman, L Freeman, Besic, Morrison, Osborn, Mousset (McBurnie 57), Robinson (Clarke 57). Subs not used: Verrips, Stevens, Basham, Norwood
SUNDERLAND: Burge, C McLaughlin, Lynch, Flanagan, De Bock, Maguire (Dobson 90+1), McGeouch, Power, Embleton (Hume 46), O’Nien, Wyke. Subs not used: Patterson, Grigg, Leadbitter, Taylor, Connelly
REFEREE: Tim Robinson (West Sussex)
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