WEMBLEY heartbreak yet again for Sunderland, only this year Jack Ross’ side had to suffer the feeling twice in one season. This was not how it was envisaged for the Black Cats, who, to compound their misery, must now face up to a second consecutive campaign in the third tier of English football for the first time in their entire history.

What promised so much earlier in the season, and even during the middle period, has ended up with nothing but two Wembley appearances to show for it. There is no promotion party, no gearing up for the Championship this summer. And it hurts.

It hurts the Sunderland players, all on their knees at the final whistle, and it hurts the 35,000 or so fans that made the return to this grand stadium to witness the club they support fall short. Again. Even after the disappointments of the last two relegations, this will hurt as much.

The most frustrating thing for those of a Sunderland persuasion, was that Charlton even did their best to give them a helping hand (or foot) by the fact they handed Jack Ross’ team one of the craziest goals that has ever been scored in this part of London.

When Naby Sarr rolled a seemingly harmless back pass in the direction of his goalkeeper with less than five minutes on the clock, and Dillion Phillips incredibly allowed the ball to run beyond him and into his own net, Sunderland supporters must have dared to wonder.

Finally, at the seventh attempt, this could be it. This could be the year when they do finally celebrate a victory at Wembley for the first time since that famous FA Cup triumph in 1973. Not so.

Rather than build on that in their 61st game of a gruelling season, it was Charlton who actually looked more composed on the big stage from there on in. Despite a lack of chances both ends, it was Lee Bowyer’s men who looked the stronger and more creative.

In the 35th minute things were level when Sunderland were carved open down the right, creating the opportunity for Ben Purrington to score. Even then Sunderland’s fans, sensing things were not going to plan, must have still held on to some hope.

But with an extra half an hour looming, and in the fourth minute of stoppage-time, Charlton hit that winner, at a time that ensured there was no way back. Patrick Bauer the unlikely Charlton hero, scoring at the back post when Sunderland fell asleep to defend a late free-kick.

Sunderland’s players’ heads dropped, the final whistle was blown, and Charlton danced and partied like the men from the North-East had pictured. Now what? Another season in League One looms large and there’s not a single thing anyone can do about it.

Sunderland’s early advantage was, quite frankly, an incredible way to take the lead in a Wembley final. Of all the magic touches that have graced this wonderful stage over the years, Phillips’ was certainly not one of them – in fact it didn’t even look like he got his studs on it.

The tempo for a frantic afternoon had been set within seconds of the first whistle. Sarr had already floored Max Power, who had to watch the majority of the game on crutches after he was replaced by Lewis Morgan, when the defender had to look on in disbelief.

What should have been a routine control or punt upfield when Sarr rolled a soft touch in the direction of his keeper turned into an absolute horror show. Phillips committed the sin of not looking properly at the ball, which then rolled beyond his raised foot and into the empty net behind him.

Sunderland’s players didn’t even know where to go to celebrate, while their fans jumped for joy and surprise at the manner of it. After a few shakes of hands in the middle of the pitch by the men wearing all black, it was back to business. And, as it turned out, that wasn’t as straight forward as it could have been.

Rather than that freak opener acting as a rattle to Charlton, who did have a few nervy moments immediately after, they were the team that grew and improved as the half wore on. Sunderland spent much of the match on the back foot.

Perhaps it was the sight of former Newcastle midfielder Bowyer seething on the sideline that spurred them on, but whatever it was it worked after Phillips had turned behind Grant Leadbitter’s low drive for a corner.

Like so often this season Sunderland didn’t take command and paid the price before the break. There had been a few danger signs, like Lyle Taylor volleying over, before Charlton levelled things up ten minutes before half-time.

Phillips could be seen thanking the heavens when Purrington arrived undetected at the back post to convert Taylor’s dangerous and perfect low delivery across the six-yard box, having been cleverly worked in by Anfernee Dijksteel’s flick from Joel Aribo’s pass.

Even though everyone associated with Charlton must have been embarrassed by the manner of the first, their response deserved the equaliser and it arrived. The challenge was on for Sunderland to respond properly.

Yet it was Charlton who decided to mix things up for the second half. Bowyer scrapped playing with three at the back by taking off Sarr, and suddenly there was a diamond for Sunderland to contend with in the middle.

Taylor continued to be an absolute nuisance, with Joel Aribo playing in the pocket and looking to make an impression.

Leadbitter and Lee Cattermole, with the experience but not as young legs, did find a way to slow things down for a period to thwart the south Londoners in the middle, which coincided with Ross introducing Will Grigg for Chris Maguire. But Charlton still looked more dangerous when they did attack, although neither goalkeeper had the busiest of afternoons.

Aiden McGeady’s introduction for the final 17 minutes of the second half did raise spirits among the away fans. It was a question of what he could serve up on his first appearance since April 27, and in the back of his mind he still had a foot problem to worry about.

It was easy to understand why Ross put him on. Sunderland lacked the ability to unlock the defence without him, so McGeady was seen as a last throw of the die. In truth, despite a few dribbles and blocked efforts from distance, he didn’t have the impact that was desperately needed.

As extra-time edged closer, Charlton were the team that pushed, harried and put Sunderland on the back foot. They had earned a couple of free-kicks in dangerous areas when Cullen’s late delivery, after the defence switched off when it was quickly taken, fell to Bauer at the back post.

His first effort was blocked by Flanagan, but the Sunderland defender could only help the rebound over the line from the Charlton man’s second shot. It was game over seconds later and, once again, Sunderland were left crushed and in tears as their fans left Wembley.