SUNDERLAND kicked off their new campaign with a convincing FA Cup third round win against fellow FA Women’s Super League 2 side Oxford United.
In difficult conditions at Eppleton CW, the home side were first to show.
Bekki Bass, on her Black Cats debut, made ground down the right and crossed for Abbey Joice to have a shot saved by the keeper.
Beth Mead then broke through to set up another debutant Brogan McHugh but her effort was lifted over the bar.
Then, Vicki Greenwell moved down the left and released Mead, who saw her shot turned behind for a corner. Greenwell took the kick and it found its way to Rachel Furness at the far post and she fired Sunderland ahead on 12 minutes.
Oxford were relying on the odd breakaway but found defenders Gemma Wilson and Steph Bannon in commanding form at the back.
At the other end, McHugh and Mead went close as Sunderland stepped up their game and they doubled their lead after 23 minutes following fine play through the middle by Kelly McDougall and Abbey Joice.
The ball broke to Bass, who cleverly sidestepped her marker to stroke the ball home.
Oxford almost pulled a goal back within a minute following a quick break forward. Helen King latched onto the ball and rounded Rachael Laws but she pulled her shot narrowly wide.
Moments later, Oxford’s Lauren Allison picked up a loose ball but Megan Beer got across well to clear the danger.
A clever free-kick from Greenwell almost caught out keeper Demi Lambourne, but she scrambled across to claw the ball away from the top corner.
Oxford reduced the arrears in the 35th minute when Louise Fellows ghosted in at the back post from a free-kick to slot past the helpless Laws.
Good work from McHugh resulted in Joice shooting narrowly wide but Sunderland were not to be denied as they restored their two-goal lead on 40 minutes when a corner by Mead was powerfully headed home by the tireless Furness.
Sunderland continued to press at the start of the second half and they all but made the game safe after 47 minutes.
McDougall won the ball in midfield and found Joice, who curled a magnificent effort from 25 yards into the top left corner.
The visitors pushed forward as Fellows and Nutmen combined to carve out a chance which was tipped over by Laws.
McHugh, Joice and Mead all went close before a great tackle by skipper Bannon prevented Stanley and Allison from bearing down on goal.
Oxford’s resistance was dealt a blow after 72 minutes when Sahara Osborne Ricketts crudely brought down Furness in full flight and she received a second yellow card, followed by the red. Three minutes later, Sophie Williams crossed for Mead, who turned her marker and fired low into the far corner of the net.
Sunderland: Laws, Beer, Greenwell, Bannon, Wilson, , McDougall, Furness, Joice (Holmes 87), Bass, McHugh (Williams 73), Mead. Sub (not used): Alderson.
H Durham Women triumphed 4-0 over Chichester City in their FA Cup clash.
Two first-half own goals set them on their way, and second half strikes from Beth Hepple and Zoe Ness completed the scoring.
The wins was marred, though, by injury with Jess White sustaining a broken collarbone.