Sunderland's long unbeaten run comes to an end as they crash out of the FA Cup with flat display
Sunderland's long unbeaten run came to an end as they crashed out of the FA Cup against Walsall.
A stunning strike from Liam Kinsella was the difference between the two sides but the Black Cats could have no complaints with the result.
A challenging schedule caught up with the home side as they turned into a flat display.
They had not lost since the 2-1 humbling against Burton Albion back in September, but that impressive 16 game sequence is now at an end.
The fixture backlog, as well as the familiarity of the opposition, inevitably led to a reduced crowd and the game began at an accordingly sedate pace.
Sunderland with most of the ball, but Walsall posing a threat on the counter through their lively wing duo Josh Ginnelly and Josh Gordon.
It was the visitors who had the first sight of goal, Kieron Morris flashing an effort wide from the edge of the box quarter of an hour in.
The Black Cats had the welcome sight of Duncan Watmore stepping up his recovery, Jack Ross using the 25-year-old through the middle.
Even in the early stages, his ability to stretch the game and make dangerous runs off the shoulder of defenders was evident.
He came close shortly after Morris when George Honeyman sprung him clear with a fine pass. His first touch was good, but the Walsall backline were just able to clear their lines.
Chances were few and far between in a poor half, but Jon McLaughlin did outstanding well to deny Josh Gordon when Morgan Ferrier drove into the area and flashed a ball across the box.
That was by some distance the best chance of the half, though Max Power went close just before the break when he ran onto a pass from Jerome Sinclair, driving just wide of the far post from the edge of the box.
Watmore made a nuisance of himself at the beginning of the second half but his side generally were sloppy in possession.
They were made to pay when Liam Kinsella scored an outstanding goal, picking up the ball around 25 yards out and arrowing a fine effort into the top corner.
Ross threw on Lee Cattermole and Josh Maja to try and lift his side out of their slumber and a Walsall error almost saw them do exactly that.
Russell Martin played a shocking pass straight to Chris Maguire, who teed up Watmore on the edge of the area. His effort looked to be heading for the bottom corner but Martin did well to get back and steer it wide.
The frustration of the home supporters grew as Sunderland went into the last ten minutes still desperately struggling to find any rhythm or tempo to their play.
A wicked free-kick from Bryan Oviedo was almost turned goalward by Maguire, but the visitors looked more than comfortable with their lead.
Jack Baldwin headed an Oviedo corner wide in the dying embers of the game as Walsall held out, only the second time this season that the Black Cats have not scored this season.
Sunderland XI: McLaughlin; O'Nien, Flanagan, Baldwin, Oviedo; McGeouch (Cattermole, 58), Honeyman, Power; Watmore (Mumba, 78), Maguire, Sinclair (Maja, 58)
Subs: Ruiter, Loovens, Ozturk, James
Walsall XI: Roberts, Devlin, Martin, Guthrie, Leahy; Morris, Osborne, Kinsella; Gordon, Ginnelly, Ferrier
Subs: Dunn, Edwards, Kouhyar, Johnson, Parker, Ronan, Bates
Attendance: 8,212 (201 away)
Bookings: Maguire, 11 Watmore, 37 O'Nien. 74 Guthrie, 76