In 1974 Carlisle United dumped holders Sunderland out of the FA Cup. The Lads were a pale imitation that day of the side that just a few months earlier had won the competition in memorable fashion, and they were deservedly beaten in a Roker Park replay after the two sides had been paired together in the FA Cup for the first time.
It would be another 20 years before the sides met again in the same tournament, when once again Sunderland had been recent finalists having taken on Liverpool at Wembley in 1992.
The man that guided the Lads to that showpiece, Malcolm Crosby, had since moved on however and so too had the person that replaced him, Terry Butcher, meaning that Mick Buxton was now in charge as the Cumbrians returned to Wearside.
The recently installed caretaker boss had guided his team to four wins from his first seven games – an impressive return considering the six successive defeats that had occurred before hand.
Keen to keep up that momentum, the new manager then named a strong side on this day but whilst Sunderland were clear favourites against their fourth tier opposition, they ended the afternoon lucky just to still be in the competition.
Having pulled off a superb Coca-Cola Cup double against Leeds United earlier in the campaign Sunderland may have expected an easier ride against the Cumbrians, but it was the visitors that were now keen to pull off a cup shock.
They started strongly and would have taken the lead after only 3 minutes were it not for Don Goodman’s clearance off the line from David Reeves’ header; the away side started like a train and went close again soon after, with Rod Thomas hitting the base of the post with a long-range effort.
The Lads struggled to get out of their own half and yet they took the lead with a little over half an hour played, albeit via the scruffiest of goals.
Tony Caig was unable to fully clear the danger from Gordon Armstrong’s left wing cross and the ball dropped for Derek Ferguson, who scored for the first time in red and white when his scuffed shot on the edge of the area bobbled in.
It wasn’t the cleanest of connections, but Ferguson was otherwise neat and tidy and was later named man of the match in the sponsor’s lounge.
Not everybody in the Sunderland side emerged with as much credit as the Scot, who worked hard to try and keep things together whilst some of his teammates struggled to click. Carlisle continued to harry throughout and showed more quality, equalising in the closing stages when they snatched possession in their own half and sprung a quick counterattack.
The ball ended up at the feet of Tony Gallimore, and whilst his shot was stopped by Alec Chamberlain it fell perfectly for Darren Edmondson to poke in.
Home supporters left the ground shell shocked having just watched their improving team stagger through the fixture so unconvincingly.
The Brunton Park rematch at least saw them come through after extra time, but after Lee Howey’s winner the run came to an end in the next round at Premiership outfit Wimbledon.
It at least meant Buxton could ‘concentrate on the league’, and whilst he was unable to follow in the footsteps of his fellow Northumbrian Bob Stokoe in the cup, he did at least emulate one of his other achievements.
Stokoe had of course been in charge for that sensational 1973 success having grown up in Mickley under a Sunderland supporting father.
Buxton, meanwhile, originally from Corbridge, was a keen Rokerite himself and would regularly attend games as a child once his family had moved to Ryhope.
The duo both then found themselves in similar situations when taking over the reins on Wearside over two decades apart.
Immediately faced with relegation battles in their first seasons in the hot seat, on both occasions they were able to drag the club well clear of the drop zone.
The bonus for Buxton was that in knocking Carlisle United out of the cup, he had also managed to avenge that 1974 disappointment despite looking so shaky at the first time of asking.
Saturday 8 January 1994
FA Cup 3rd round
Sunderland 1 (Ferguson 32)
Carlisle United 1 (Edmondson 80)
Sunderland: Chamberlain; Owers, Melville, Bennett, Ord; Smith, Ferguson, Ball, Armstrong (Ma. Gray); Goodman, P. Gray. Unused: Norman, Russell.
Roker Park, attendance 23, 587