THIRTY years on from the club pulling off the greatest FA Cup final shock of all time, Sunderland's management and fans last night delivered an embarrassing snub to the famous old competition.

And 80 years after they won the first Wembley final, Bolton Wanderers helped to reduce this third round replay to little more than a glorified reserve team match.

In front of a crowd of just 14,550 - just 162 more than the Stadium of Light's lowest gate for a senior Sunderland fixture - Julio Arca and Michael Proctor scored within a minute of each other in the first half of extra time.

Sunderland now face a fourth round trip to Blackburn Rovers on January 25, but the result was a mere side issue when set against the sad spectacle on the pitch and in the Stadium of Light stands.

Howard Wilkinson has maintained throughout his Sunderland tenure that his sole ambition for the remainder of the season is to safeguard the club's Premiership status.

Certainly, the Black Cats' lengthy injury list forced his FA Cup hand and one can empathise with his situation.

But Sunderland's rich Cup heritage, with the images of Jim Montgomery's miraculous double save and Bob Stokoe's gallop across the Wembley pitch etched on the minds of fans young and old, did not deserve the events of last night.

The FA Cup is about Ronnie Radford, of stirring deeds that bring out the footballing romance in even the most cynical old pro or fan.

It is not about two Premiership teams making eight changes each from the sides they sent out in their preceding League games.

Money talks, of course, and it is Wilkinson and Sam Allardyce's job to be pragmatic rather than romantic as they weigh up the merits of Premiership survival against a Cup replay in mid-January.

But the nagging feeling remained that the legacy of Montgomery, Ian Porterfield et al was tarnished on a windswept evening by the River Wear.

The team selections and subdued atmosphere prompted fears that those present would be treated to a mediocre match, and those worries proved to be well placed.

The members of Sunderland's scratch team looked at times as if they had never even met before, let alone played together.

Passes were misplaced as runs were misread, and the breakdown in communications caused consternation in the Sunderland backline on a number of occasions.

The first half was the Kevin Kyle Show - had the striker converted any of the four presentable chances that came his way.

He sent an early header just wide, fired a low shot straight at goalkeeper Kevin Poole from ten yards, and had a drive from just outside the penalty area beaten out.

His most glaring miss, however, came in stoppage time as he rose unchallenged eight yards out, only to direct his header into Poole's grateful arms. Bolton did not manage a single shot in the first half, though Thomas Sorensen did drop a Youri Djorkaeff corner on to the top of his crossbar.

But Sunderland were indebted to Sorensen in the 76th minute when he dived at Djorkaeff's feet to snuff out the danger after the Frenchman had wriggled past Darren Williams and Stanislav Varga.

The bright Thornton forced a diving save from Poole before the youngster blocked Kevin Nolan's goalbound effort following good work from Djorkaeff and former Bishop Auckland postman Jeff Smith.

Thirty seconds later, Poole tipped Proctor's looping header over the crossbar as both teams searched for a late winner that would prevent the game from going to extra time - the most unpalatable scenario for Wilkinson and Allardyce.

Kyle had the most glorious opportunity imaginable in the 92nd minute of normal time as McCann's deep cross found him in plenty of space ten yards out.

The Scotland international had enough time to bring the ball down, play keepy-uppy and pick his spot - yet somehow he headed narrowly wide.

And so to extra time, and what everyone expected would be another 30 minutes of purgatory for the spectators who had remained resolutely cheerful, despite the dross on show.

Of course, when Kyle headed home shortly after the restart, he was flagged offside. Why couldn't you have done that a few moments earlier, Kevin? Stewart was denied by Poole's legs before the goalkeeper's stubborn resistance was finally broken in the 98th minute.

Kyle miscontrolled Thome's long punt forward, but the ball fell to Arca eight yards out and he planted an angled drive inside the far post.

Barely 60 seconds had elapsed when Proctor checked inside Ivan Campo with his first touch and, with his second, drove his shot beyond the despairing Poole. Game over. Bolton searched for a way back into the match, but while Sunderland were hardly playing with a swagger they knew the tie was safe.

The future of the FA Cup as we knew it, however, may not be so certain..

Result: Sunderland 2 Bolton Wanderers 0.

* Sunderland's reserves clash with Liverpool on January 16 will take place at the Reds' Academy Ground - not Chester City as previously thought.

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