Gus Poyet said he didn’t want a replay but he got one in the East Yorkshire sun.
As Steve Bruce beamed from the sidelines, Sunderland were forced to endure the bitter taste of defeat to their ex-boss for the third time in this rollercoaster season.
Not only was this the worst of the lot, it was also the most deserved – a much-changed Black Cats line-up coming up well short of the required standard in East Yorkshire.
Wembley is off the agenda for another season, replaced by the prospect of a long slog towards safety. Crystal Palace is now Sunderland’s Cup final, followed by Norwich City the week after. It is a tale of points rather than prizes for Gus Poyet’s wounded players.
There could be few complaints. Poyet picked a team that was brimming with international players, but bringing back the likes of Andrea Dossena and Santiago Vergini diluted the competitive core of his team, and gave ammunition to those who would accuse him of weakening the team with Sunderland on the verge of a historic Wembley double.
The Sunderland boss saw it differently but the replacements were not up to scratch. Ignacio Scocco, for all the work Sunderland have done with him, is not yet up to par and Steven Fletcher continues to play as if he has a piano on his back. Vergini and Dossena were poor.
They were not alone. After the glorious effort last weekend, this was pretty pitiful. Lacking in cutting edge and creativity in the first half, they collapsed in the second period and Lee Cattermole’s 77th-minute kamikaze back-pass summed up an afternoon where the sun shone favourably on Bruce’s Tigers.
To be fair, they had painted a target on the enforcer’s back from the first minute. It was a cynical but understandable tactic from a manager who knows how to rile Wearsiders, has a unique insight into Cattermole’s psyche and used it to complete a memorable hat-trick of wins over his former employers yesterday.
When Ahmed Elmohamady leapt acrobatically after Cattermole had executed a fair challenge on him in the opening exchanges, it was clear what Bruce’s instructions had been: cajole, encourage and inject niggle into the game. Basically, disrupt the central cog in Sunderland’s midfield by riling him.
David Meyler took up the task gleefully when Cattermole had stood him up near the centre circle. Waving an imaginary yellow card at referee Craig Pawson, he got his wish as the midfielder went into the official’s book early on.
At first, the midfielder seemed able to rise above it. But twice in the second half he erred dreadfully as Sunderland conceded two farcical goals in a second-half implosion that it is all-too familiar to Poyet.
It is the reason why, in spite of results falling favourably for them over the weekend, there are still question marks over Sunderland’s Premier League status.
It felt all too familiar in a season of disappointment. The only thing that wasn’t reprised in red and white was the fighting spirit that earned Sunderland their first Wembley berth – and the plaudits of everyone for their Capital One Cup final performance.
Exactly one week on from Wembley, Sunderland found themselves brought down to earth with a bump and just as they had accepted the praise from Wembley, so too must they share around the criticism equally. Like a chemist tinkering in the laboratory, Poyet has searched in vain for a striking formula that might bring a positive reaction from his Black Cats, and the latest forward duo trialled by the Uruguyan barely flickered in a first half that lacked any sort of red and white cutting edge.
Fabio Borini provided a solution at Wembley but for one reason or another, Poyet dropped the in-form Italian to the bench and gave two players in desperate need of match-day minutes their heads. It was an inauspicious first game together for Ignacio Scocco and Steven Fletcher.
Scocco might still be getting to speed with the English game but there were at least flashes of Latin inspiration from a player that Poyet has invested plenty in. Fletcher, by contrast, has been playing as if he has a piano on his back.
And there were a few heavy touches from the Scotland striker that betrayed his uncertainty in the penalty area.
Still, you might have backed him to retain a touch more composure than Scocco for Sunderland’s only presentable first-half opportunity.
That arrived when Emanuele Giaccherini back-heeled smartly into the path of Phil Bardsley – who drove a low, fizzing cross into the Argentinian marksman’s path. Scocco’s leaden touch saw the ball flying into the Hull supporters massed behind Allan McGregor’s goal.
Sunderland then received a reprieve when Oscar Ustari blocked Sone Aluko’s tame penalty after Seb Larsson had felled the same player in the area.
It was only to delay their defeat, though – and a second half as poor as anything Sunderland have served up consigned them to defeat.
John O’Shea was beaten too easily by Curtis Davies to start the Tigers’ landslide and then Cattermole slipped up twice as Sunderland imploded.
His first was bad – beaten to the ball by a gleeful Meyler – but his second was a back pass straight to Matty Fryatt, who slotted coolly past Ustari to confirm Hull’s place at Wembley. Sunderland, by contrast, have a week to eliminate the bereft feeling that clung to them at the KC Stadium last night.