SUNDERLAND’S revival under Martin O’Neill continued at London Road where they beat npower Championship side Peterborough to make it through to the fourth round of the FA Cup.
And their reward was a potentially thrilling home tie against North East neighbours Middlesbrough, who beat Shrewsbury yesterday.
The Black Cats controlled the first half and almost went ahead when James McClean hit the bar with a fierce drive.
However, they soon took the lead after the break when Sebastian Larsson’s free-kick found the net.
McClean, 22, got the goal he deserved just before the hour when he glanced home Larsson’s cross to make it five wins from seven matches since O’Neill took over from Steve Bruce.
O’Neill has given the Black Cats a new-found confidence and the way Sunderland easily avoided a potential banana skin was impressive.
O’Neill made just two changes to his team, with Phil Bardsley and Larsson coming in to a team that lined up in a 4-5-1 formation, with Stephane Sessegnon as the Black Cats’ lone striker.
The Posh started confidently, with Paul Taylor striding forward before blazing over Simon Mignolet’s bar.
It did not take Sunderland long to get in to their stride, however. Bardsley opened up the Peterborough defence with a clever slide-rule pass but Larsson shot wide and Craig Gardner stung Joe Lewis’ palms with a powerful drive.
Ryan Bennett then had to clear over his own bar from eight yards after Gardner whipped in a dangerous low cross.
Peterborough’s Tommy Rowe fired a volley just wide in the 13th minute, but they soon found themselves on the back foot again.
Youngster McClean cut in off the flank after picking up Bardsley’s cross and blasted a fierce drive that rattled Peterborough’s bar.
Gardner then got on the end of Larsson’s dangerous cross with a powerful header that Lewis spilled.
Bardsley fired a low shot which Lewis easily saved in first-half injury time as Peterborough ended the first half firmly on the back foot.
Craig Alcock’s foul on McClean gave Sunderland a free-kick five yards from the right corner of the Peterborough box three minutes in to the second half and they took full advantage.
Larsson whipped in a curling ball from the free-kick that evaded the sea of players from both sides in the box and sneaked to the net at the back post to give the away side the lead.
The Swede came close to adding his second with a low drive that Lewis parried moments later.
McClean dashed Peterborough’s hopes moments later when he rose to glance home Larsson’s cross at the near post from eight yards to double the Black Cats’ lead.
Read a full match report, plus reaction to the game and the FA Cup draw, in tomorrow’s Echo.
FA Cup fourth round draw:
Brighton/Wrexham v Newcastle
Sunderland v Middlesbrough
Dagenham & Redbridge/Millwall v Southampton
Hull v Crawley
MK Dons/QPR v Chelsea
West Brom v Norwich
Blackpool v Sheffield Wednesday
Arsenal/Leeds v Aston Villa
Stevenage v Notts County
Watford v Tottenham
Liverpool v Manchester United
Derby v Stoke
Everton v Fulham
Macclesfield/Bolton v Swansea
Sheffield United v Birmingham/Wolves
Nottingham Forest/Leicester v Swindon
Ties to be played on the weekend of January 28 & 29.