SUNDERLAND mirrored their 1973 cup-winning scoreline over Leeds United after a match-winning return to action from Patrick van Aanholt.
Van Aanholt’s first goal in Sunderland colours proved to be sufficient for the Black Cats at the Stadium of Light, as Gus Poyet’s side progressed into the fourth round of the FA Cup.
The Dutch international had been a surprise name on the team-sheet after more than two months on the sidelines with a shoulder injury, but after returning to training just 24 hours earlier, he broke the deadlock with a superb left-footed strike.
That came during a dominant opening 45 minutes from Sunderland, yet Championship Leeds finally came to life after the break, with the visitors twice going close during the early stages of the second half.
However, Sunderland still had opportunities to put the game to bed, with Steven Fletcher spurning a couple of presentable chances to make the scoreline more comfortable.
Leeds almost Sunderland pay for that wastefulness in stoppage time, but captain Liam Cooper’s header crashed against the outside of the post.
An air of nostalgia enveloped the Stadium of Light prior to kick-off, with eight members of the Sunderland 1973 cup-winning side introduced to the crowd.
Van Aanholt was one of six changes to the side, with Liam Bridcutt, Steven Fletcher, Ricky Alvarez, Sebastian Coates and Emanuele Giaccherini all featuring - taking the spots of Billy Jones, Seb Larsson, Connor Wickham, Adam Johnson, Wes Brown and Will Buckley.
Goalkeeper Vito Mannone would have been in contention to start, but the Italian missed out through illness.
Leeds made seven changes to the starting XI, including full debuts for Dario Del Fabro and Brian Montenegro.
Sunderland kept the ball calmly in the opening stages, but it took them until the 12th minute to forge the game’s first opportunity.
Giaccherini embarked upon an excellent mazy run down the left, before checking back onto his right foot, 12 yards out, and firing a right-footed shot towards the near post which was blocked smartly by Leeds stopper Maro Silvestri before being turned behind.
Jordi Gomez took the resulting corner short to Ricky Alvarez, to the left of goal on the edge of the area, and the Argentine international hit a low shot which was deflected and crashed against the top of the bar.
Van Aanholt was demonstrating what Sunderland had been missing during his absence with his pace and width going forwards, and the Dutch international carved out an opening for Fletcher in the 20th minute.
Gomez’s lovely through-ball picked out the onrushing van Aanholt on the left-hand by-line, but Fletcher couldn’t get over the pull-back and sent it harmlessly over the top from six yards out.
Sunderland went close again in the 26th minute when Gomez’s corner from the left found Santiago Vergini, eight yards out, but his header was cleared off the line by Casper Sloth.
The breakthrough finally arrived in the 33rd minute and it came in some style.
Fletcher laid the ball off to van Aanholt down the left-hand side of the area and despite the angle looking tight, the left-back rocketed a powerful drive into the far bottom corner.
Sunderland were then forced into an early change when they opted to take a precautionary approach over a knock for Jack Rodwell and replace the £10million midfielder with Seb Larsson.
HALF-TIME Sunderland 1 Leeds 0
Leeds should have levelled within 45 seconds of the restart with their first genuine opportunity of the game.
Mirco Antenucci picked out the overlapping Adryan to the right of goal, leaving the Brazilian facing Costel Pantilimon one against one.
But Adryan spurned the golden opportunity, by firing against the legs of the giant Romanian.
Moments later, the rejuvenated visitors had another opportunity when Brian Montenegro’s shot from the left-hand side of the box was pushed behind at his near post by Pantilimon.
Leeds then had a penalty appeal turned down when left-back Charlie Taylor went down under a challenge from Seb Larsson, but replays showed referee Mike Dean was right to award a free-kick right on the edge of the box.
Sunderland gradually got themselves together after that strong start to the half from the visitors, and went close to doubling their advantage in the 69th minute.
Centre-half Dario Del Fabro was caught dallying by half-time substitute Connor Wickham in his own penalty area and after winning the ball, the Sunderland man laid it back to Fletcher.
The ball came to Fletcher on his weaker right foot, 12 yards out, but he still made good contact which required an excellent stop from Silvestri, high to his left.
Fletcher then had a second opportunity to effectively put the game to bed after getting to the ball ahead of Leeds skipper Liam Cooper, but from a tight angle, 15 yards out, he fired harmlessly across the face.
Leeds came desperately close to snatching a stoppage time equaliser when Cooper met Luke Murphy’s excellent right-wing cross, but the centre-half’s header clipped the outside of the post with Pantilimon stranded.
FULL-TIME Sunderland 1 Leeds 0
SUNDERLAND: Pantilimon, Vergini, van Aanholt, Coates, O’Shea, Bridcutt, Rodwell (Larsson 37), Gomez, Alvarez (Wickham 46), Giaccherini (Johnson 74), Fletcher. Subs not used: Stryjek, Buckley, Beadling, Robson. Booked: Bridcutt (71)
LEEDS: Silvestri, Berardi, Cooper, Del Fabro, C Taylor, Austin, Murphy, Sloth, Adryan (Sharp 62), Antenucci, Montenegro (Doukara 85). Subs not used: S Taylor, Killock, Thompson, Phillips, Dawson. Booked: Murphy (35)