Roy Keane followed the Premier League custom of sending out a weakened side for Carling Cup duty, but whereas Arsène Wenger can do likewise for Arsenal and revel in his proteges crushing Sheffield United, Keane had to endure his second string's embarrassing struggle to dispose of Northampton of League One at the Stadium of Light.
Anthony Stokes, once one of Wenger's bright young things, scored twice in the last four minutes, the second in stoppage time, to claw back a two-goal deficit for Sunderland before Marton Fulop, deputising for Craig Gordon, saved Leon Constantine's penalty to send Keane's side into the fourth round.
Northampton have not won in the league since the opening day of the season, but goals from Colin Larkin and Luke Guttridge seemingly put them en route for victory until Stokes, who made his Arsenal debut in this competition at the Stadium of Light, rescued the home side. An injury to Nyron Nosworthy added to Keane's troubles and left Sunderland with 10 men for extra-time, but they hung on. "It was probably one of the worst and longest nights I have ever had in my football career," said Keane. "It was a shambles."
Wenger fielded a team with an average age of 19 – 23-year-old goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski was the oldest – against Sheffield United at the Emirates, but they were still far too good for the Championship side. Led by the experienced – in comparison to his team-mates – Nicklas Bendtner, Arsenal were three up by half-time, the Dane, 20, scoring twice and setting up Carlos Vela to curl home the third.
The 19-year-old Mexican, making his full debut, added an impudent fourth soon after the interval, chipping over Paddy Kenny, and Jack Wilshere, 16, offered another glimpse of an enticing future for the home support with the fifth. Vela crowned the display with Arsenal's sixth and his third after being set up by Aaron Ramsey, yet another from Wenger's well-stocked stable of young stars who enjoyed an impressive evening. "It was a great Arsenal performance. I'm very happy and very proud tonight," said Wenger. "I was not surprised because I see them every day, but you never know on a big stage how they play. We knew about Bendtner, but we discovered more about Vela."
Fulham joined West Ham as Premier League casualties, falling victim to substitute Jay Rodriguez's goal as Burnley won 1-0 at Turf Moor. Stoke were another Premier League side who needed penalties to progress, beating Reading 4-3 after the game had finished 2-1.
Liverpool did not have it all their own way against Crewe at Anfield. The visitors, who sit in the League One drop zone, replied to Daniel Agger's free-kick midway through the first half through Michael O'Connor and it was not until the 58th minute that Leiva Lucas headed the home side back in front.
Swansea were the gleeful victors after a predictably robust meeting with Cardiff at the Liberty Stadium. Jordi Gomez curled a 20-yard free-kick past Peter Enckelman after 57 minutes to register the only goal in the first competitive encounter between the sides since April 1999. Cardiff's Stephen McPhail was sent off for two bookable offences. Rotherham of League Two added to Southampton's miserable start to the season with a 3-1 victory at the Don Valley Stadium.