SUNDERLAND geared up for Tuesday night's FA Cup quarter-final replay with Everton in the perfect manner at the Stadium of Light, where James McClean was the star of the show.
McClean, fresh from signing a new contract on Friday, set the first goal up, added one of his own before playing a crucial role in the third to secure a 3-1 victory over Queens Park Rangers.
Sunderland, who have made the FA Cup a priority, still have high hopes of a top eight finish this season and they closed the gap on Liverpool to two points.
It was a win which also wiped the smile from former Newcastle midfielder Joey Barton's face, particularly given how he had to witness all of the match from the Rangers bench.
Bendtner clinically nodded McClean's cross beyond goalkeeper Paddy Kenny shortly before half-time to put Rangers behind.
And there was no way back for QPR when Djibril Cisse was red carded for an x-rated two-footed lunge on Fraizer Campbell nine minutes after half-time.
McClean then made the most of Nedum Onuoha's mistimed header to turn and head for goal. His first shot was blocked by Luke Young but McClean, despite Onuoha's attempts to make amends, made no mistake with his second.
Then McClean played David Vaughan in down the left, the Welshman's delivery picked out Stephane Sessegnon and he finished in style to make it three 14 minutes from time.
It was pretty even until Barton, dropped by Hoops boss Mark Hughes after his poor showing against Liverpool in midweek, decided to mock the home fans.
The former Newcastle midfielder reminded the Wearside faithful of the Magpies' 5-1 win over them during his time in the North-East last season.
But Sunderland concentrated on their football instead. Once Bendtner headed Martin O'Neill's side in front, the Black Cats took charge and never looked back.
There was a sweetly struck free-kick from full-back Taye Taiwo to purr over 11 minutes from time, but the damage had already been done.
SUNDERLAND (4-4-2): Mignolet; O'Shea (Campbell 26), Kyrgiakos, Turner, Bridge (Meyler 70); Colback, Gardner, Vaughan, McClean; Sessegnon; Bendtner (Elmohamady 82). Subs: Gordon (gk), Wickham, Kilgallon, Ji.
QUEENS PARK RANGERS (4-4-2): Kenny; Young, Ferdinand, Onuoha, Taiwo; Mackie, Derry, Diakete (Buzsaky 52), Taarabt (Wright-Phillips 60); Zamora (Bothroyd 82), Cisse. Subs: Cerny (gk), Hill, Gabbidon, Barton.