SUNDERLAND are 45 minutes away from ending their 41-year wait for a major trophy after Fabio Borini's goal gave them a 1-0 interval lead in the Capital One Cup final.
Indeed, with Manchester City looking strangely out of sorts, Borini passed up a fantastic chance to double Sunderland's lead when he lingered marginally too long before getting his shot away minutes before the half-time whistle.
Gustavo Poyet sprang a couple of surprises with his team selection, naming Seb Larsson in midfield and starting with Borini as his lone striker.
Jozy Altidore, who had started most of the Black Cats' most recent matches, was not even on the substitutes' bench.
There was also something of a surprise in the way that Sunderland lined up, with Jack Colback starting on the left of midfield and Larsson partnering Ki in the central area.
Manchester City began brightly, dominating possession in the opening ten minutes and pegging Sunderland back in their own half.
However, their only opportunity came to nothing when Vito Mannone got down well to keep out Sergio Aguero's low shot, and the moment every Sunderland had been dreaming of came moments later.
Lee Cattermole dispossessed Yaya Toure in own half and played the ball to Seb Larsson. He fed Adam Johnson, who crafted an excellent ball over the top to release Borini in the inside-right channel.
Vincent Kompany should have cleared the danger, but Borini shrugged him off and, with the outside of his foot, bent a fantastic low shot into the bottom corner of Costel Pantilimon's net.
That was cue for absolute bedlam inside Wembley, and Sunderland came close to claiming a second goal when Borini's shot from the edge of the area was deflected over shortly after.
With the Manchester City defence looking surprisingly shaky, the Black Cats threatened again in the 15th minute, but Wes Brown failed to find the target as he leapt to meet Larsson's corner.
Rocked by their early concession, it took Manchester City a while to find their feet. Kompany and Martin Demichelis struggled to contain Borini at the back, while Toure was unable to dominate the central area as he might have expected.
With Cattermole and Ki Sung-Yueng retaining possession effectively, Sunderland were the better side for most of the first half, although Mannone had to save well to deny Samir Nasri shortly before the half-hour mark.
Aguero broke down the right, but while Nasri stabbed his cut back towards goal, Mannone claimed the Frenchman's shot.
However, it was the Black Cats creating the final chance of the opening period, and it should really have resulted in a second goal for Borini.
The Italian was in an offside position when Larsson flicked on Marcos Alonso's long ball, but the flag stayed down, affording him a free run on goal. He was just about to pull the trigger, only for a magnificent last-ditch tackle from Kompany to rob him of possession.
Sunderland (4-1-4-1): Mannone; Bardsley, Brown, O'Shea, Alonson; Cattermole; Larsson, Colback, Ki, Johnson; Borini.
Subs: Ustari (gk), Celustka, Vergini, Gardner, Giaccherini, Fletcher, Scocco.
Man City (4-4-2): Pantilimon; Zabaleta, Demichelis, Kompany, Kolarov; Nasri, Fernandinho, Toure, Silva; Dzeko, Aguero.
Subs: Hart (gk), Lescott, Clichy, Garcia, Milner, Navas, Negredo.