SUNDERLAND suffered Wembley heartbreak as Manchester City overturned a half-time deficit to claim the Capital One Cup.
Two goals in two second-half minutes from Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri proved decisive, with Jesus Navas' 90th-minute strike ensuring that Sunderland's 41-year wait for a major trophy goes on.
The Black Cats were the better side in the first half, with Fabio Borini's tenth-minute strike securing them a deserved interval lead.
But Gustavo Poyet's side were unable to respond after City came roaring back at the start of the second half, and Manuel Pellegrini was able to celebrate his first trophy in English football at the final whistle.
Poyet sprang a couple of surprises with his team selection, naming Seb Larsson in midfield and starting with Borini as his lone striker.
Sunderland fans go through an emotional rollercoaster in Quinn's Bar at the Stadium of Light. Picture: Chris Booth
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 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.
Fabio Borini with a cool finish to put Sunderland one goal to the good. Pictures: Tom Banks
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 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.
City boss Manuel Pellegrini would demanded a major improvement from his side at the interval, and they at least began the second half with more urgency than they had displayed before the break.
David Silva drilled a low shot from the edge of the area marginally too close to Mannone, but Ki ensured Sunderland continued to carry an attacking threat at the other end with a rising 30-yard drive that was tipped over by Costel Pantilimon.
However, the game changed entirely as Manchester City scored two goals in two minutes to turn a one-goal deficit into a one-goal lead.
Both goals were the results of sensational strikes, with Toure delivering the first of them from fully 25 yards. Pablo Zabaleta rolled the ball into the midfielder's path, and with his first touch, he curled a remarkable finish into the top left-hand corner.
That was bad enough for Sunderland, but worse was to come less than 60 seconds later as Nasri produced an equally brilliant finish to fire City into the lead.
Aleksander Kolarov's low cross was deflected into Nasri's path, and the Frenchman crashed a curling first-time strike into the bottom corner of the net.
Poyet's immediate response was to introduce Steven Fletcher and Craig Gardner, and the former went close with 18 minutes left. Borini nudged Gardner's through ball into his path, but Fletcher's low strike was marginally too close to Pantilimon. Kompany almost claimed a third City goal late on, volleying wide from Nasri's corner, but Sunderland found themselves with one last chance to square the game.
Ki nodded an 89th-minute free-kick into Fletcher's path, but rather than shooting, the Scotsman attempted to take a touch to control the ball and the chance was gone.
Seconds later, and City's third ensured that was that. Having broken downfield swiftly, Toure rolled the ball into Navas' path, and the substitute swept home a clinical low strike. Sunderland (4-1-4-1): Mannone; Bardsley, Brown, O'Shea, Alonso; Cattermole (Giaccherini 76); Johnson (Gardner 60), Larsson (Fletcher 60), Ki, Colback; Borini.
Subs: Ustari (gk), Celustka, Vergini, Scocco.
Man City (4-4-2): Pantilimon; Zabaleta, Demichelis, Kompany, Kolarov; Nasri, Fernandinho, Toure, Silva (Garcia 77); Dzeko (Negredo 87), Aguero (Navas 58).
Subs: Hart (gk), Lescott, Clichy, Milner.