Gus Poyet made six changes to his starting line-up following Sunday's creditable 1-1 draw with Manchester United, as Sunderland travelled to the Midlands for this evening's Capital One Cup clash with Championship side Birmingham City at St. Andrew's.
There was a warm reception for former Blues midfield man Seb Larsson on returning to his old stomping ground, while Costel Pantilimon, Billy Jones and Jordi Gomez all made their first starts for the Black Cats. There was also a spot on the bench for Italian Emanuele Giaccherini two weeks ahead of schedule after injury.
The hosts started brightly, with Paul Caddis having a right-footed shot from outside the area saved by Pantilimon on five minutes. Just three minutes later, Wes Thomas flashed the ball across the box only for Vergini to clear and then a threatening run from winger David Cotterill resulted in a dangerous cross which the Argentine defender knocked away to safety once again.
Sunderland's first effort of note arrived on the half-hour mark when Jozy Altidore lashed the ball high and wide from the right side of the box.
Connor Wickham then watched his 25-yard strike go wide as the half-time whistle crept nearer, while Brum striker Thomas came within a whisker of scoring at the other end just seconds later. A breathless end to the half continued after the energetic Cotterill almost put the home side ahead when hitting the right-hand post from close range.
Despite plenty of possession for the visitors, it was Lee Clark's Birmingham who'd looked most likely to open their account when going forward during the opening period.
Twenty minutes into the second-half, Sunderland began to build up their pressure with both Altidore and Gomez seeing shots blocked by some last-ditch defending. Bridcutt then picked up a rebound from a Jordi Gomez free-kick, but his attempt was also repelled by the committed Birmingham rearguard.
Wes Brown was unlucky in the 70th minute when his header from a corner narrowly went wide to the left. Former Newcastle United defender David Edgar tried to respond with a 30-yarder that didn't trouble Pantilimon.
Finally, last season's League Cup finalists broke the deadlock through the stylish Jordi Gomez with just shy of fifteen minutes remaining. The Spaniard fired home from 20 yards into the bottom right-hand corner to send the travelling army of fans into raptures.
Clayton Donaldson tried to haul his side back into the game with ten minutes to go from the centre of the area, but he was denied by Sunderland's giant debutant between the sticks. He came close again with time running out, but his right-footed shot went just beyond the upright.
He was left to rue those missed opportunities when a quickfire double from first Adam Johnson and then Connor Wickham put the tie out of the hosts' reach; Johnson finishing off initial good work by Altidore and Wickham following that up with the third from sub Giaccherini's pass.
It was a struggle to gain a foothold in the game for Sunderland in the first-half, but their class told in the final twenty minutes to ease through to the next round.
Birmingham City: Doyle; Eardley (Spector 33'), Edgar, Hall, Robinson; Duffy (Novak 61'), Gleeson, Caddis, Cotterill; Donaldson, Thomas.
Subs not used: Randolph, Grounds, Davis, Gray, Johnstone.
Sunderland: Pantilimon; Vergini, Brown, O'Shea, Jones; Johnson, Larsson (Giaccherini 81'), Bridcutt, Gomez, Wickham; Altidore.
Subs not used: van Aanholt, Cattermole, Rodwell, Fletcher, Mannone, Buckley.
Goals: Gomez (77'), Johnson (87'), Wickham (88')