Second-half goals from Craig Gardner and James McClean helped 10-man Sunderland into the last 16 of the Capital One Cup against MK Dons.
Lee Cattermole was sent off in the first half, but the Black Cats still outclassed their League One opponents.
Cattermole was dismissed for the fifth time in his Sunderland career for a reckless challenge on Adam Chicksen.
But Gardner fired a 25-yard free kick past Ian McLoughlin before McClean struck a second from a tight angle.
The game lacked quality for large periods, although Louis Saha missed a couple of early chances as he made his first Sunderland start following his summer move from Tottenham.
Saha had a shot well saved by McLoughlin after McClean beat three Dons defenders, then curled an effort just past the post.
The home side had the best chance of the first half when a short corner caught Sunderland off guard and Stephen Gleeson's shot whistled wide from the edge of the area.
Cattermole saw red when he took a heavy touch in a charge forward from midfield and lunged into young full-back Chicksen as he attempted to win the ball back.
On the glory trail
Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill is looking to win the League Cup for a fifth time, having lifted it as a player with Nottingham Forest in 1978 and 1979, and as a manager with Leicester in 1997 and 2000.
Dean Bowditch bent a shot wide for the Dons just before the break, and Sunderland keeper Keiren Westwood had to tip over Darren Potter's long-range effort early in the second half.
But the Premier League side went ahead from Gardner's perfectly-struck free kick after Antony Kay had bodychecked McClean outside the area.
Substitutes Ryan Lowe and Charlie MacDonald both fired wide when presented with decent chances to equalise for MK Dons.
And McClean wrapped up victory with a fine individual effort, as he eluded several challenges to find space inside the MK Dons' penalty area and fire low past McLoughlin.
MK Dons manager Karl Robinson:
"I think we played well enough tonight but Sunderland have shown us tremendous respect. I'm looking forward to having a chat with Martin O'Neill and picking his brains so I can improve as a manager as well."
"I thought we deserved a little bit more out of the game to be honest and I think most people in the ground would agree with that.
"What a wonder goal that was at 0-0. That took the stuffing out of us."
Milton Keynes Dons
- 16 McLoughlin
- 03 Lewington
- 12 Chicksen
- 24 Kay Booked
- 06 Williams
- 07 Gleeson
- 08 Potter
- 11 Smith (MacDonald - 62' )
- 17 Powell (O'Shea - 77' )
- 26 Chadwick (Lowe - 62' )
- 09 Bowditch
- 50 Burns
- 04 Doumbe
- 27 Spence
- 21 Ali
- 23 O'Shea
- 10 MacDonald
- 14 Lowe
- 20 Westwood
- 12 Kilgallon
- 03 Rose
- 06 Cattermole Dismissed
- 08 Gardner
- 14 Colback Booked
- 15 Vaughan
- 18 Meyler
- 23 McClean
- 28 Sessegnon (Johnson - 85' )
- 25 Saha
- 22 Mignolet
- 42 Egan
- 21 Johnson
- 09 Campbell
- 10 Wickham
- 17 Ji Dong-Won
- 26 Fletcher
Live Text Commentary
Full Time The referee ends the match.90:00 +2:40
Shot by Adam Chicksen from a long way out goes over the net.90:00 +2:08
Inswinging corner taken from the left by-line by Dean Bowditch.90:00 +1:44
Adam Chicksen has an effort at goal from deep inside the area missing to the left of the target.90:00 +0:38
Shot from just outside the area by Louis Saha misses to the right of the target.89:42
Strike by Charlie MacDonald from inside the six-yard box clear the bar.88:53
Outswinging corner taken right-footed by Dean Bowditch from the right by-line.88:28
The ball is crossed by Adam Chicksen, Danny Rose gets a block in.88:05
The ball is swung over by James McClean, clearance by Antony Kay.87:53
Centre by Adam Johnson, Antony Kay manages to make a clearance.85:24
Direct free kick taken by James O'Shea.85:24 Booking
Booking Jack Colback goes into the referee's book for unsporting behaviour.85:19
Unfair challenge on James O'Shea by Jack Colback results in a free kick.83:59 Substitution
Substitution Stephane Sessegnon goes off and Adam Johnson comes on.83:59
Centre by Adam Chicksen, Danny Rose makes a clearance. Darren Potter takes a shot from long range which goes wide of the right-hand post.83:15
James McClean produces a cross.81:37
Assist by Jack Colback.81:37 Goal scored
Goal! - James McClean - MK Dons 0 - 2 Sunderland James McClean finds the net with a goal from inside the penalty box to the bottom right corner of the goal. Milton Keynes Dons 0-2 Sunderland.80:45
Dean Bowditch produces a volleyed left-footed shot from deep inside the area which goes wide of the left-hand post.79:43
The ball is delivered by Dean Bowditch, Charlie MacDonald has an effort at goal from close in which goes wide right of the goal.
Centre by Antony Kay, Craig Gardner manages to make a clearance.78:46
Dean Bowditch delivers the ball, blocked by Danny Rose.77:46
The ball is delivered by Adam Chicksen, Keiren Westwood makes a save.76:43 Substitution
Substitution Daniel Powell leaves the field to be replaced by James O'Shea.75:23
Dean Lewington gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Stephane Sessegnon. Jack Colback takes the direct free kick.74:59
The offside flag is raised against Louis Saha. Antony Kay takes the free kick.74:20
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Stephane Sessegnon by Antony Kay. Free kick taken by Craig Gardner.70:40
Louis Saha challenges Shaun Williams unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by Antony Kay.69:50
Effort from the edge of the box by Ryan Lowe goes wide of the right-hand upright.68:48
Centre by James McClean.66:41
A cross is delivered by Antony Kay, save by Keiren Westwood.64:45
Ryan Lowe concedes a free kick for a foul on Louis Saha. David Vaughan takes the free kick.62:59
Foul by Daniel Powell on Stephane Sessegnon, free kick awarded. Strike on goal comes in from James McClean from the free kick.61:40 Substitution
Substitution (Milton Keynes Dons) makes a substitution, with Charlie MacDonald coming on for Alan Smith.61:40 Substitution
Substitution Ryan Lowe on for Luke Chadwick.61:04
Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Dean Bowditch.58:56
Shot on goal by Alan Smith from just inside the area goes over the target.57:15
Dean Lewington fouled by Stephane Sessegnon, the ref awards a free kick. Dean Bowditch restarts play with the free kick.56:26
Foul by David Vaughan on Stephen Gleeson, free kick awarded. Shaun Williams takes the direct free kick.55:13
Daniel Powell has shot on goal from just outside the box which goes wide of the right-hand upright.53:51
Assist on the goal came from James McClean.53:51 Goal scored
Goal! - Craig Gardner - MK Dons 0 - 1 Sunderland Craig Gardner hits the back of the net with a goal direct from the free kick from outside the penalty box to the top right corner of the goal. Milton Keynes Dons 0-1 Sunderland.52:59 Booking
Booking Antony Kay shown a yellow card.52:56
James McClean fouled by Antony Kay, the ref awards a free kick.51:35
Dean Bowditch decides to take a short corner.51:21
Darren Potter takes a shot. Save made by Keiren Westwood.50:13
Effort on goal by Luke Chadwick from outside the area goes harmlessly over the bar.48:55
Foul by Dean Bowditch on Stephane Sessegnon, free kick awarded. Craig Gardner takes the direct free kick.47:33
Inswinging corner taken by Dean Bowditch from the left by-line, clearance made by Louis Saha.46:21
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on James McClean by Adam Chicksen. Danny Rose takes the direct free kick.45:47
The ball is swung over by Adam Chicksen, save by Keiren Westwood.45:01
The referee blows his whistle to start the second half.45:00 +1:08 Half time
Half Time The ref blows to end the first period.42:02
Dean Bowditch has an effort at goal from outside the penalty box missing to the wide left of the goal.38:47
The assistant referee signals for offside against Danny Rose. Antony Kay restarts play with the free kick.37:56
Craig Gardner sends in a cross, clearance made by Antony Kay.34:01
Stephen Gleeson gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Jack Colback. Craig Gardner crosses the ball in from the free kick, Adam Chicksen manages to make a clearance.33:14
The ball is crossed by Dean Lewington.31:09
Antony Kay restarts play with the free kick.31:09 Dismissal
Dismissal The referee shows Lee Cattermole a red card for professional foul.30:54
Foul by Lee Cattermole on Adam Chicksen, free kick awarded.30:40
The ball is swung over by Danny Rose.28:30
Unfair challenge on Daniel Powell by Craig Gardner results in a free kick. Dean Lewington takes the free kick.27:48
Dean Bowditch takes the outswinging corner, clearance by Louis Saha.27:38
A cross is delivered by Darren Potter, Matthew Kilgallon makes a clearance.27:23
The ball is delivered by Dean Bowditch, clearance made by David Meyler.26:29
Darren Potter gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Stephane Sessegnon. Direct free kick taken by Jack Colback.24:19
Shot from 35 yards by Matthew Kilgallon missed to the right of the goal.21:46
Dean Bowditch takes a outswinging corner to the near post, Effort from the edge of the box by Stephen Gleeson goes wide of the left-hand post.20:51
Louis Saha has an effort at goal from just outside the box which goes wide of the right-hand post.20:38
A cross is delivered by Danny Rose, clearance made by Antony Kay.19:42
The referee blows for offside against Louis Saha. Shaun Williams takes the direct free kick.19:17
Foul by Craig Gardner on Luke Chadwick, free kick awarded. Direct free kick taken by Dean Lewington.18:27
Effort from 25 yards by Louis Saha. Save made by Ian McLoughlin.16:21
The assistant referee flags for offside against Daniel Powell. Keiren Westwood takes the indirect free kick.14:39
David Vaughan takes a shot. Clearance by Antony Kay. Centre by Adam Chicksen, Keiren Westwood makes a save.12:48
Lee Cattermole concedes a free kick for a foul on Alan Smith. Dean Bowditch takes the direct free kick. Free kick awarded for a foul by Craig Gardner on Dean Bowditch. Dean Bowditch delivers the ball from the free kick right-footed from left wing, clearance made by Matthew Kilgallon.12:10
Shot from just outside the box by Luke Chadwick misses to the right of the goal.10:57
Unfair challenge on Dean Bowditch by David Vaughan results in a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Dean Bowditch.9:25
Foul by Louis Saha on Stephen Gleeson, free kick awarded. Stephen Gleeson takes the free kick.7:12
Inswinging corner taken by Dean Bowditch, Louis Saha makes a clearance.7:02
A cross is delivered by Daniel Powell, Danny Rose gets a block in.6:01
Stephane Sessegnon takes a shot. Save made by Ian McLoughlin.5:03
The ball is delivered by Danny Rose, clearance by Shaun Williams.4:45
David Vaughan fouled by Darren Potter, the ref awards a free kick. Jack Colback takes the direct free kick.2:19
The ball is sent over by Jack Colback, Shaun Williams manages to make a clearance. David Vaughan takes a outswinging corner to the near post, clearance by Dean Bowditch.1:28
Centre by Adam Chicksen.0:00
The ref blows the whistle to begin the match.
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