Jack Ross sprung something of a surprise with his team selection at Fratton Park but the Sunderland boss got his tactics spot on as the Black Cats reached the play-off final.
Ross dropped Lynden Gooch and Lewis Morgan to the bench, with Grant Leadbitter and Chris Maguire restored to the side.
Some fans had expressed concern over the lack of pace and width in the side prior to kick-off but the midfield trio of Leadbitter, Lee Cattermole and Max Power controlled the game.
Tenacious in the tackle and doggedly winning second balls all over the pitch, it helped Sunderland gain control of the midfield and dictate the game second half as Pompey pushed bodies forward.
Power started in the No.10 role behind Charlie Wyke before switching with Maguire as the game progressed and Ross was delighted his tactical tweaks paid off.
On Power starting in a more advanced role, Ross said: “We started that way and then obviously rotated it at times to get Chris in that area once we saw out the opening period of the game.
“We decided early on that was the way we were going to approach the game.
“When it works you get praise for it and when it doesn’t you get criticism, that is the fine line you always walk.
“I felt it would give us a good platform for us to win the tie.”
Chris Maguire, the hero of the semi-final after his volley in the first leg sealed a 1-0 aggregate win, says Sunderland fully deserve their place in the final.
Maguire added: “It has been tough over the course of the season against them, there have been goals involved in every match but this time it was a nil nil draw, both teams at it.
“It was a great performance from the team and one we deserved.”