The depleted First Division leaders took a battering for much of the night at Goodison Park, but somehow found the composure to snatch the result and a place in the quarter-finals when it seemed their legs must surely fail them.
A side which already looked exhausted did very well to take the game into extra time and then to weather a further Everton onslaught to set- up a shoot-out which did not reach its nail-biting climax until 10.50pm. It was then, after three perfect spot-kicks from each side, that Chris Makin thought he had cost Sunderland the tie when his effort hit the bar. But next up was John Oster, who missed. One more success from each side took even the penalties into extra time. Niall Quinn tucked his into the bottom corner, but Ibrahima Bakayoko put his too close enough to Thomas Sorensen, who dived right to save.
Sunderland, without half a dozen of the players who have given them their marvellous start to the season, gave as good as they got in the first half, showing their capacity for feeding off scraps when they took the lead in 28 minutes. It was a goal of stark simplicity and clinical execution, Michael Bridges taking a huge clearance from Sorensen in his stride and slotting it past the advancing Thomas Myhre.
Along with their centre-back, Paul Butler, the lively Bridges was a casualty of the second half as Sunderland began to run out of numbers.
Everton were unimpressive before the break, but switched to a 3-5-2 formation and gathered momentum, especially when they brought on two more substitutes, Oster and Tony Grant, midway through the half.
From then on, it was a test of the resilience of Peter Reid's side on his return to Goodison. They finally cracked when the substitute Jody Craddock fouled Bakayoko in a threatening position just outside the D. John Collins stepped up and his shot was always curling ominously past Sorensen's right hand.
Collins had two more shots in normal time, one saved and one wide, but the best chance to win the game without recourse to the extra half hour came when Sorensen parried Duncan Ferguson's effort and Bakayoko back- heeled against the post.
The pattern continued in extra time, with Bakayoko pulling the ball back for Oster to fire narrowly wide and Ferguson getting a touch to Collin's shot that sent it inches off target.
Like a fighter trapped on the ropes who refuses to fall down Sunderland managed an assault of their own, their 18-year-old substitute, Mike Procter, having a shot blocked and then missing with his follow-up.
The siege was resumed when Ferguson hit the post, however, but still Sunderland clung on to take a contest delayed for 15 minutes at the start into penalties and almost up to the 11th hour of the 11th day.
Everton (4-4-2): Myhre; Dunne, Short, Materazzi, Ball; Cadamarteri (Oster, 65), Hutchison (Grant, 65), Dacourt (Cleland, h-t), Collins; Ferguson, Bakayoko. Substitutes not used: Bilic, Gerrard (gk).
Sunderland (4-4-2): Sorensen; Makin, Melville, Butler (Craddock, 47), Scott; Smith, Thirlwell (Clark, 73), Williams, Johnston; Bridges (Proctor, 60), Quinn. Substitutes not used: Wainwright, Marriott (gk).
Referee: M Reed (Birmingham).Reuse content