Middlesbrough nevertheless proved too strong for their troubled North- east neighbours. The beaten finalists of last season advanced to the fourth round with two second-half goals against a team that has been on the slide since losing to Boro in Wearside's Stadium of Light three weeks ago.
The first came after 57 minutes of nil-nil desperandum. It was the first in senior service by Beck's teenage stand-in, Andy Campbell. The 18-year- old striker buried his big chance with the aplomb of a seasoned poacher, fastening on to Emerson's inviting through-ball and burrowing a low shot through the legs of Edwin Zoetebier.
For good measure, Craig Hignett applied his name to the score-sheet in injury time, crashing home a half-volley.
Sunderland's nightmare on Elm Park - a 4-0 loss to Reading in their last match - prompted four pages of letters calling for Reid's dismissal in the sports edition of the Sunderland Echo last Saturday. Hence the tearing up of half the team sheet and the unfamiliar line-up paraded before 2,700 Sunderland supporters gathered by the banks of the Tees.
Middlesbrough needed little invitation to tear into a defence with a central pairing as yet untried at League level. Thrice in the opening 12 minutes Boro bypassed Jody Craddock and Darren Williams but Zoetebier was alert to the danger, thwarting Paul Merson (twice) and Phil Stamp.
Sunderland mustered no more than one long-range shot, and one that flew well off target from Kevin Ball's right boot, before fleetingly threatening to spark to attacking life early in the second half.
Ball fired wide and Allan Johnston landed a volley on the roof of the net. But then Emerson broke forward and Campbell broke through. Merson struck wood 15 minutes from the end, but it was not until injury time that Hignett put us out of our misery.
Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Fleming, Festa, Whyte, Harrison; Stamp (Hignett, 30), Emerson, Mustoe, Townsend; Merson, Campbell (Freestone, 89). Substitute not used: Summerbell.
Sunderland (4-4-2): Zoetebier; Makin, Craddock, Williams, Scott; Johnston, Ball, Clark, Gray; Russell (Smith, 70), Bridges (Byrne, 79). Substitute not used: Holloway,
Referee: K Leach (Wolverhampton).Reuse content