Wycombe succumbed to a 4-0 defeat at the Stadium of Light as three first-half goals put Sunderland on track for a comfortable victory on Saturday afternoon.
Charlie Wyke and Denver Hume had the hosts two goals to the good before Chris Maguire placed home a penalty to stun the visitors, and Maguire added a second with an excellent free-kick in the second period to wrap up the win.
Gareth Ainsworth was able to name Dominic Gape and Curtis Thompson in midfield after the pair returned from injury problems, while Adebayo Akinfenwa was named on the bench as Wanderers opted for a pacier approach up top.
But a sucker punch came at the other end just six minutes in, as Sunderland took the lead with their first attack. Lynden Gooch was picked out unmarked on the left-hand side of the box and laid a low cross on a plate for Charlie Wyke to tuck home from close range as he edged in front of his marker.
Wycombe remained strongly in the game without testing the keeper, and then came a moment of real class from the Black Cats fans who observed a moving minute’s applause for young Wanderers fan Oliver Darlington, who lost his battle with sepsis last week at the age of just 13.
Those Sunderland supporters were back on their feet two minutes later celebrating their second of the game, with Jordan Willis finding space down the right to deliver a low cross which was dummied by Chris Maguire at the front post and lashed home by the onrushing Denver Hume from 12 yards out.
Then came the third. Referee Andy Davies judged that Anthony Stewart had illegally blocked off Lynden Gooch as he chased down Charles’ backpass to Ryan Allsop and pointed to the spot, giving Maguire the chance to bury the penalty before being booked for a classless celebration in the face of Allsop.
Wyke was denied a second of the game when Stewart expertly diverted George Dobson’s low cross behind for a corner to prevent the striker from tapping into an empty net after Dobson combined excellently with Luke O’Nien, and then Tom Flanagan’s half-volley from a tight angle was tipped onto the bar with Allsop as Wycombe tried desperately to remain in the game in any fashion.
Gareth Ainsworth was prompted into making a change as early as 28 minutes, bringing on Adebayo Akinfenwa for Giles Phillips and moving Curtis Thompson to right-back.
The incoming striker almost made an instant impact, flicking Smyth’s long throw on target, before normal order was restored with a chance for Sunderland, headed wide by Jordan Willis.
If there was a positive at half-time, it was that Wycombe had at least weathered the storm, but this was increasingly looking like a painful afternoon particularly for the visiting fans who’d left home in the early hours in the hope of seeing a competitive display and positive outcome.
Sunderland brought on Joel Lynch for Tom Flanagan at the interval, and the hosts had the first chance of the second period when Gooch drilled a low cross-shot wide of the far post, and Wyke had a golden chance to net again when Gooch played in his team-mate who slid in but touched it wide.
Wanderers went close when Alex Samuel helped on Curtis Thompson’s curling shot from 20 yards, but it landed just over, and then Allsop did well to beat away Gooch’s drive at the end of a patient build-up.
Half chances arrived with blocked shots from Joe Jacobson and Paul Smyth, before Dominic Gape and Smyth made way for Alex Pattison and Josh Parker.
Sunderland’s fourth goal was the best of the bunch, with Maguire curling home a sumptuous free-kick from 25 yards, clipping the underside of the bar with his effort after Wyke had been fouled by Stewart.
Alex Samuel almost had a consolation but Jon McLaughlin blocked his poked effort from close range, before Sunderland introduced Marc McNulty for Lynden Gooch as the game drew towards its conclusion.
McLaughlin made two more fine saves in the final minute to deny Wheeler and Samuel a consolation, and now it's all eyes on a return to Adams Park for the visit of Rochdale next Saturday.