A stunning strike from Craig Gardner helped knockout specialists Sunderland beat Southampton 1-0 on Saturday to move into the quarter-finals of the English FA Cup.
Sunderland, who have already reached the League Cup final, again put their Premier League struggles to one side in front of a sparsely populated Stadium of Light as Gardner thundered a second-half shot into the top corner from 25 metres.
Southampton, who rested players despite being comfortably positioned in mid-table, should have levelled late on when England striker Rickie Lambert shot over an open goal from one metre.
Twice FA Cup winners Sunderland, who face a relegation battle and play Manchester City in the League Cup final on March 2, understandably made nine changes to their side.
There seemed little reason for Southampton boss Mauricio Pochettino to shake up his team, yet Victor Wanyama and James Ward-Prowse came into the midfield and Kelvin Davis replaced Artur Boruc in goal, among other changes.
After a first half lacking quality and with few opportunities, Sunderland came out with a bang after the break.
Gardner won the ball off Wanyama outside the area, set his sights on goal and let fly with an unstoppable shot after 49 minutes.
Despite being second best for most of the afternoon, Southampton passed up the best chance with eight minutes left when Lambert scooped the ball over from virtually under the crossbar after being picked out at the far post by Nathaniel Clyne.
“We have got a good way of playing now and fighting for the club,” Sunderland manager Gus Poyet said. “Sometimes you need the whole group and sometimes when these games go for you it is important for the rest of the season.”
Elsewhere, second-tier Wigan Athletic kept their defence of the FA Cup on course with a 2-1 win at Premier League club Cardiff City.
Shock 1-0 winners over Manchester City in last season’s final, Wigan were subsequently relegated to the Championship but they put paid to Cardiff thanks to a fine goal from cup final match-winner Ben Watson.
Wigan took the lead in the 18th minute at the Cardiff City Stadium when Chris McMann converted a cross from Jordi Gomez, but the hosts levelled nine minutes later through Fraizer Campbell.
Watson notched what proved to be the winner five minutes before half-time, lashing home a thunderbolt from Marc-Antoine Fortune’s tapped free-kick to send Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Cardiff out of the competition.