nine thousand supporters made the journey down to Old Trafford last night to see the Black Cats reach their first cup final for more than 20 years.
Club bosses put on a fleet of 150 free buses which saw thousands of fans set off from the Stadium of Light in high spirits – and left in dreamland after a tense semi-final, which saw Sunderland throw away victory with just 30 seconds of extra time remaining, only to win on penalties.
For heavily-pregnant fan Sarah Shutt, of Seaburn, it was almost too much to bear.
The 31-year-old, whose baby is due on February 26, four days before the March 2 final at Wembley, said: “It was soul destroying when they scored 30 seconds after us. The atmosphere was brilliant though, all the fans were amazing.
“The penalty shoot-out was so nerve-wracking, but I couldn’t believe it when we won. I don’t know what my baby is going to be, but if it’s a boy I’ll have to call him Mannone.
“I’m not sure I’ll make it to the final, with the birth date being so close. I’ll have to take the baby with me or have it at Wembley.”
Little Keaton Hill, six, of Town End Farm, was enjoying his first away game as a Black Cats fan.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said as he boarded the bus with dad Adam Adamson, 29.
“My favourite players are Giaccherini and Adam Johnson.”
Sunderland AFC ticket holders Flo Nicholson, 72, of Ford Estate, and Jean Ritchie, 72, of Hylton Lane, were making the trip to support the Lads with friends.
Flo, who was last at Old Trafford when Sunderland lost to Millwall in the FA Cup semi-final in 2004, said: “I’ve been a season ticket holder for 12 years and I’ve been looking forward to this game for weeks.”
Brian Mason, 53, was also at the semi-final game against Millwall, and made a special banner reading “Gus Poyet’s Red & White Army”.
Neil Milburn, 26, from Houghton, said: “Supporters’ efforts can’t be underestimated.
“Every single one never stopped singing and we’ve been rewarded with a trip to Wembley.”