FA Cup Report: Sunderland 0 - 3 Newcastle United
Sunderland’s adopted score, the Dance of the Knights, accompanies two warring clans in Sergei Prokofiev's ballet Romeo and Juliet and proved a fitting prelude to the Tyne-Wear derby.
The stirring anthem was soon replaced with the crowd-pleaser Ready to Go by 90s rock outfit Republica.
And the stadium mixer dropped the volume as the Ready to Go chorus hit, allowing the strong voices of both home and away fans alike to fully occupy the Mackems’ place of worship.
But a brace from Swedish striker Alexander Isak - plus an own-goal from Northern Ireland defender Daniel Ballard - brought the mood down considerably.
Smoke clung in the brisk January air, residue from the pyrotechnics that roared on either side of both home and away teams, as the 22 players lined out at the Stadium of Light.
A sea of red and white flags danced an anticipatory jig as the opening whistle blew, the black and white scarves of the 6,000 travelling Newcastle fans rotating feverishly like flower wind spinners.
The Magpies, fired by a recent bad run of form - Eddie Howe's men had lost seven out of their last eight games in all competitions - were the first out of the blocks.
Three Kieran Trippier deliveries in the opening minutes and a flurry of Joelinton charges required quick thinking from Jobe Bellingham and two nervy saves by keeper Anthony Patterson.
Yet despite the intensive press and peppering of shots, Sunderland defended valiantly, Ballard making a number of strong challenges and covering runs, temporarily stunting Trippier’s creativity.
Player of the moment for the Lads with 12 goals and one assist in 25 Championship appearances, former Leeds youngster Jack Clarke was unable to pull a rabbit out of the hat.
An over-hit pass by French midfielder Pierre Ekwah was too heavy for the winger to follow in the first half.
Despite two penalty claims which were denied by referee Craig Pawson - who did not have the aid (nor hindrance?) of VAR - and a number of threatening runs by Anthony Gordon on the left wing against Ballymena man Trai Hume, Howe's men looked set to be heading into the dressing room frustrated, their superior hold of possession not rewarded on the scoreline.
Yet the Black Cats were to rue another own goal this week, when Joelinton broke into space down the left and delivered a dangerous low cross into the six-yard box.
Sensing Isak waiting to pounce, Ballard stuck out a foot, sending the ball careening into the back of his own net.
Head covering his face, the defender did not lift it from the freshly pruned grass, the weight of every frustrated Mackem’s disappointment boring into his back.
32 seconds into the restart, Newcastle doubled their lead when Ekwah, in a bizarre move, attempted with clumsy footwork to beat Miguel Almiron from within his own box.
Having stolen the ball, Almiron rolled it to Isak, the Swede punishing Ekwah for his schoolboy error by firing it into the top left hand corner.
In the second half, Bruno Guimarães and Joelinton continued to boss the midfield.
A litany of yellow cards were brandished as late challenges roared thick and late by the men in red and white, who were often left for dust by their opposition’s sharp link-up play.
Ekwah almost redeemed himself for his dawdling that resulted in Sunderlands second concession, but his deflected effort was stopped by the feet of Martin Dubravka.
Alex Pritchard, who picked up the ball in the pocket and drove at the Newcastle defence following a lay-off by the industrious Dan Neil, saw his long-range effort dip dangerously before kissing the top of the crossbar.
In an all too familiar sight, Gordon skipped down the left flank, snaked into the box and forced another heavy challenge by Ballard, who boldly shoved him in the back.
This time the referee pointed to the spot, where Isak fired clinically into the left hand corner, claiming his brace for the Magpies, his hands fanning out behind his ears in celebration.
The match would end with a much-needed 3-0 victory for Newcastle, halting their streak of bad form and securing Newcastle’s first win against Sunderland since 2011.
For newly installed Black Cats gaffer Michael Beale, an opportunity to assuage any doubts taking root in the Rokerities will present itself this Saturday when they take on Ipswich Town in a crucial Championship tie.
Sunderland: Anthony Patterson; Trai Hume, Luke O'Nien, Daniel Ballard, Ajibola Alese; Pierre-Emmanuel Ekwah, Alex Pritchard, Jobe Bellingham, Jack Clarke; Nazariy Rusyn (Abdoullah Ba 85).
Subs not used: Nathan Bishop (gk), Jenson Seelt, Timothée Pembele, Nectarios Triantis, Adil Aouchiche, Luis Semedo, Mason Burstow.
Booked: Trai Hume (39), Alex Pritchard (62), Luke O'Nien (78), Daniel Ballard (88).
Newcastle United: Martin Dúbravka; Kieran Trippier, Fabian Schär (Jamaal Lascelles 90), Sven Botman, Daniel Burn (Paul Dummett 90); Sean Longstaff, Bruno Guimarães Rodriguez Moura, Joelinton Apolinário de Lira (Lewis Miley 47), Miguel Almirón Rejala (Valentino Livramento 90), Alexander Isak, Anthony Gordon (Matthew Ritchie 90);
Subs not used: Loris Karius (gk), Emil Krafth, Lewis Hall.
Booked: Sean Longstaff (66), Anthony Gordon (66), Bruno Guimarães Rodriguez Moura (72).
Referee: Craig Pawson.
extratime.com Player of the Match: Alexander Isak (Newcastle United).