Sunderland suffer FA Cup agony after last-gasp equalidser from Manchester City
Sunderland Ladies suffered an agonising FA Cup exit after standing on the brink of a magnificent victory - and a place in the semi-finals.
The Lady Black Cats led big guns Manchester City 2-1 in the dying seconds at Mariners Park only for a last-gasp goal to take the game into extra-time.
City then scored twice more to seal a 4-2 victory - earning a semi-final trip to Chelsea.
Melanie Copeland’s Sunderland had twice held the lead and after an outstanding performance would have been worthy winners over the 90 minutes.
The visitors started the better, but Sunderland slowly found their feet.
Skipper Lucy Staniforth played a good ball down the left, which Zaneta Wyne took on, only for Danish defender Mie Jans to clear the danger.
Staniforth then tried her luck from range but did not get any power into the shot and could not test City keeper Ellie Roebuck.
Cats keeper Anke Preuss was called into action, making a solid save from a Georgia Stanway free-kick.
It was the sort of free-kick that City and England skipper Steph Houghton usually takes, but neither she nor former Sunderland team-mate Jill Scott were included in the squad for this game.
Preuss was also strong to make a save from Jennifer Beattie on 21 minutes.
Izzy Christiansen curled a shot wide for City, who then fell behind on 33 minutes.
Staniforth’s free-kick was flicked on by Hayley Sharp, and fellow defender Victoria Williams was on hand to poke the ball home.
Sunderland held onto the lead up to the interval, though Claire Emslie went close in added time with a free-kick that struck the bar.
Staniforth was again having an impressive game, and another free-kick created a chance. Sharp got onto the end of Staniforth’s delivery but her header at the far post was just off target.
City, who have the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final in Linkoping on Wednesday, made a double substitution, replacing Mel Lawley and Tessel Middag, with Nadia Nadim and Nikita Parris. Sunderland then made a change, Mollie Lambert replacing Dominique Bruinenberg.
City pulled level on 74 minutes when former Sunderland defender Demi Stokes headed home from a Nadim cross. That might have sparked a surge from City, but it was Sunderland who responded in style.
And it was Staniforth who had her side ahead again just two minutes later, rifling a superb shot into the top corner past a helpless Roebuck.
Sunderland immediately made their second change, with striker Bridget Galloway replaced by Abbey Joice. And with just five minutes left, City replaced Mie Jans with Ella Toone.
Time was almost up when City grabbed a dramatic late equaliser, Jane Ross firing home after her first effort had been brilliantly blocked by Preuss.
It was a huge body blow for Sunderland, who were then grateful that Parris had a weak effort saved by Preuss, who then produced a magnificent save to keep out a curling shot from Toone.
Preuss was finally beaten again seven minutes into extra-time when Ross slid home a shot. And City sealed the win six minutes from time when lively youngster Toone fired home from just inside the Sunderland penalty area.
Sunderland next host Everton in the league on Wednesday evening.