Sunderland's excellent form in the cups continued as a Craig Gardner rocket was enough to see off Southampton and see the home side progress to the quarter final of the FA Cup.
With the club facing fixture congestion due to our continuing involvement in the cups, which was added to after the game at Manchester City was called off due to high winds, Gus Poyet decided to make nine changes to the side which lost 2-0 to Hull City. Southampton themselves made six changes, presumably saving themselves for the race for eighth.
Oscar Ustari, Ondrej Celustka, Santiago Vergini, Andrea Dossena, Lee Cattermole, Seb Larsson, Craig Gardner and Emanuele Giaccherini all came in, while Ignacio Scocco made his debut after joining from Internacional. The visitors added Kelvin Davis, Nathanial Clyne, Jos Hooiveld, Victor Wanyama, James Ward-Prowse and Guly Do Prado to the side which won 1-0 at Hull City last time out.
Sunderland started the brighter of the two teams but neither side could force an opening early on as both teams looked to find their rhythm after making so many changes. Southampton were the first to threaten after Ward-Prowse latched onto Rickie Lambert's knock down but the youngster's shot was comfortably saved by Ustari.
Fabio Borini then had a shout for a penalty after he was felled under a challenge from Luke Shaw just inside the box but Mike Dean wasn't interested in either giving a penalty or booking for Borini for diving. You can make your own mind up on that decision HERE.
Sunderland held the upper hand for most of the first half but in truth not much was happening. The home side had half chances when Gardner took the ball off the lively Giaccherini after the Italian was poised to shoot, Gardner then had a shot blocked after the ball was pulled back to him by Larsson from a free kick, Giaccherini also had another shot blocked by a Southampton defender.
At the other end Vergini had to be alert as he did well to clear a cross from off the toes of Lambert but half time came with neither goalkeeper really troubled (apart from Davis regularly finding the crowd with his passes).
The game finally picked up just after the break with Scocco threatening down the right and when a defender kicked the ball free, Gardner shimmied past a Southampton player and unleashed an unstoppable shot past the despairing dive of Davis in the visitor's goal. It was a goal that would have graced any game and something we all know Gardner is capable of when given time to shoot. You can see that screamer from Gardner HERE.
A tiring Scocco then made way after a tidy debut for Connor Wickham and the big English striker started causing problems immediately. He nearly latched onto a Larsson cross but couldn't get enough contact on the ball, then after Borini turned an opposition defender and played the ball to him, he held the ball up well, found Gardner and his ball released Larsson but his shot was easily saved by Davis.
With Southampton pushing forward, Sunderland were getting opportunities on the break, Wickham made a chance for himself when he turned two Southampton players in his own half, ran to the edge of visitor's 18-yard box but dragged his shot wide when he really should have played in Borini who was free to his right. Colback and Borini both broke quickly, with Colback's pass finding Borini who seen his shot saved by Davis and Borini finding Wickham but his shot was quickly blocked by a defender.
The visitors did have two great chances to equalise with 10 minutes remaining but Adam Lallana couldn't find the target after latching onto a great Clyne cross. Then Lambert missed an absolute sitter from another Clyne cross, with the England international skying his shot from inside the six-yard box when he really should have scored.
Other than those two chances, the home side were well worth their victory. Poyet's men clearly wanted to win the game more than Southampton and deservedly progressed to the quarter final of the FA Cup, which means they are now only one game from another Wembley appearance.