Phil Bardsley paid off another chunk of his debt to Sunderland with the opening goal as the Black Cats booked a mouthwatering last-eight date with Chelsea next month.
The right-back had been told he had no future at Sunderland after being pictured in a casino smothered in notes last May but Gus Poyet’s gamble of bringing him back into the fold is beginning to pay off. He notched a 58th-minute opener – prodding home as Southampton’s defenders dwelled in the box after Kelvin Davis blocked Jozy Altidore’s header – that paved the way for a Sunderland win.
It was an uplifting way to end an evening that began in subdued fashion, and was watched by the Black Cats lowest crowd for nearly three years. With few clear-cut opportunities in the first half, you could hardly blame the thousands who stayed away at first.
But Sunderland are making progress under Poyet and when substitute Seb Larsson added a second – again unselfishly teed up Altidore – they were on course for their first quarter-final in this competition since 2000.
A much-changed Southampton side rallied in the late stages and found a way back into the game when Maya Yoshida nodded an 88th-minute goal. But Sunderland, who included Wes Brown for his first start since January 2012, held firm and will now take on Chelsea on December 17 in a game that is sure to pique the interest of the Wearside public.