DARREN Ferguson had no doubts that the best team on the night won at the Stadium of Light.
But the Peterborough boss still regretted the fact that his team could not have pushed Sunderland harder.
After a superb start to the season - eight wins in 10 games in a run to an automatic promotion spot - the League One side arrived on Wearside full of confidence and determined to heap more pressure on the managerless Premier League side.
Ferguson had a sneaking feeling he could engineer a cup upset on the night but he found Sunderland in focused mood and his side struggled to get a foothold in the game against the highly-motivated Black Cats.
“We found it difficult,” he sighed.
“We were in the game right up until late in the second-half but I’m disappointed for my players because I didn’t think they expressed themselves as well as they could have.
“We thought we would have played better in the first half than we did because it was part of our strategy to try to put Sunderland under pressure from the start.
“We know that the crowd can get restless up here when things aren’t going well and obviously it’s a difficult time for them at the moment so we had hopes in that direction but it wasn’t to be.”
Ferguson said his side were disrupted when attacker Lee Tomlin was forced out of the game, 10 minutes in, following a tackle from Ki Sung-Yeung which earned the South Korean a yellow card.
“It was a bad foul, a bad foul,” said the Scot. “There was no attempt to play the ball.”
But Ferguson did not want to hide behind a couple of injuries on the night as the cause for his side’s defeat.
“We thrive in terms of controlling the game with possession but we weren’t able to do it,” he pointed out.
“Sunderland brought in some of the players we thought they would like Seb Larsson and looked to pressure high up the field.
“Credit to Kevin Ball, I thought he picked a good, positive team, but then I knew he would.
“He’s a passionate man - Sunderland through and through - and I knew he would have them up for it.
“On the night, Sunderland deserved to win, that much is completely clear in my mind.”