Connor Wickham rode to the rescue of Sunderland with a brilliant brace to avert a Capital One Cup shock against MK Dons.
On an uncomfortable night for the Black Cats they were facing an early exit from the League Cup after goals from Patrick Bamford and Izale McLeod left Sunderland with a mountain to climb.
Despite Jozy Altidore pulling a goal back on 78 minutes, Sunderland were facing ignominy with four minutes left until Wickham struck a fine leveller.
And the ex-Ipswich man doubled his Sunderland tally with another well-taken goal in the final minute to send a surge of relief around the stadium.
Adam Johnson’s wonderful fourth added a gloss to the scoreline that did a disservice to the visiting Dons, who had played some neat passing stuff.
For Paolo Di Canio it was also a major fillip on an evening when his “revolution” seemed to be heading towards its first serious difficulties. That his substitutions made a major difference was beyond doubt, but he may want to review his selection policy after making six changes to his starting XI.
One of them – Ji Dong-Won in for Stephane Sessegnon – backfired badly and the South Korean international was substituted early in the second half after a woeful performance that drew ironic cheers from the home fans.