“Paddy McNair, he scores when he wants...”
Not a chant you would ever expect the Sunderland faithful to be singing, but they were belting it out after his second-half double.
McNair had endured a difficult start to life on Wearside, with an own goal on his debut gifting Manchester City the win.
His performances after were questionable, with the former Manchester United player quickly taken out of the limelight.
But he was back with a bang last night at Loftus Road against QPR.
The 21-year-old Northern Ireland international scoreda fine double after Sandro had given Rangers the lead on the hourmark.
His goals didn’t come as a surprise to his Sunderland team-mates though, with McNair – who started alongside Jan Kirchhoff in central midfield – quite an adept finisher by all accounts.
But the 2,000-strong travelling supporters never saw it coming.
David Moyes didn’t bring him to Wearside to score goals, but his goals against Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s side could prove pivotal.
With two huge home games to come in the next 10 days against Crystal Palace on Saturday and West Bromwich Albion the week after, Sunderland needed some momentum from somewhere.
They have been flat-lining in the league. Second bottom and winless.
But this win over Championship side QPR could just give them the boost they need.
McNair will grab the headlines, but Didier Ndong was superb in the second half, Duncan Watmore played well up front, while Kirchhoff and Lee Cattermole got more valuable minutes.
There was also a return for John O’Shea, while Papy Djilobodji was much improved – although a lack of concentration did lead to the corner from which Rangers scored.
But there are plenty of positives for Moyes to take into Saturday.
Both managers made widespread changes, with Moyes taking the opportunity to rest Lamine Kone and Cattermole – the pair started on the bench – while Jermain Defoe missed out with a slight calf injury.
Six changes in total from the side beaten 1-0 by Spurs.
And a change of formation to boot, with Moyes opting to deploy Watmore alongside 17-year-old Joel Asoro up front in a 4-4-2 set-up, the teenager back fit after picking up a knock on international duty with Sweden Under-21s.
QPR, meanwhile, made eight changes. Struggling for form, Rangers are 16th in the Championship and without a league win in three games. They were thumped 6-0 by Newcastle United last week.
Sunderland never looked likely to match that scoreline at Loftus Road.
For all the endeavours of Watmore and Asoro, the Black Cats missed Jermain Defoe’s cutting edge.
But with the club’s main focus rightly on the Premier League, Defoe was always due to sit this one out anyway, even if he hadn’t taken a whack to his calf at White Hart Lane.
Victor Anichebe – when he is finally fit enough to be part of the matchday squad – will add a physical presence up front, but he is unlikely to turn into a goal machine given his career record.
Instead, Sunderland are going to have to grind teams down through sheer hard work, good organisational skills and the odd dash of flair here and there.
And it was McNair who provided that surprise spark last night.
The big news was the return of Dutch left-back van Aanholt to the starting line-up.
Van Aanholt was withdrawn at the last minute at White Hart Lane after the team sheets had been submitted and warm-ups following advice from cardiologists.
But he was in from the start at Loftus Road.
And it was a competitive start to proceedings, with Asoro the first player with a sight on goal, pulling his effort just wide of the post.
Sunderland had started well and should have taken the lead 11 minutes in.
Watmore was played in by Ndong but the England Under-21 ace saw his well-hit strike tipped wide by home keeper Matt Ingram, a superb stop.
QPR’s first sight on goal came in the 21st minute.
Abdenasser El Khayati made room for himself in the Sunderland area before unleashing his shot, withJoran Pickford, staying in the starting line-up, standing tall to make the save.
The ball looped up but Manchester City loanee Jason Denayer was quick to react and head it over his own crossbar.
Kirchhoff produced a brilliant cushioned volley in the 27th minute, but Ingram was equal to it.
Sunderland came storming out of the traps second half, with McNair seeing a shot cleared off the line by Joel Lynch before Kirchhoff’s header was deflected wide.
The breakthrough came in the 60th minute.
Djilobodji misjudged a headed clearance, the ball going out for a corner.
And from that corner, the ball eventually fell to Brazilian midfielder Sandro, on the edge of the area, and he hit a shot on the turn into the bottom right-hand corner of Pickford’s net.
Moyes turned to his subs bench and, within a minute of making a triple switch, Sunderland were level.
Watmore played McNair in, the former Manchester United utility man latching onto the ball inside the area before coolly slotting home past Ingram.
And – to the amazement of McNair himself and the travelling Sunderland supporters – he doubled their lead 10 minutes later.
Ndong’s fierce effort was palmed out by Ingram, straight into the path of the onrushing McNair, who fired home.
Dreamland for McNair and the travelling support.
Sunderland are through to the fourth round and they have some much-needed momentum ahead of Palace on Saturday. Now they need to capitalise on it and turn around their league form.