Black Cats fans from South Tyneside saw their Wembley dreams end in heartache as Jack Ross’ side lost their Checkatrade Trophy final in the cruellest manner.
Portsmouth claimed glory over Sunderland with a penalty shoot-out win in a repeat of 1998’s play-off defeat to Charlton Athletic.
Forty thousand Sunderland supporters travelled to London for the game - taking over Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden on Saturday night, with thousands more watching the match in pubs and clubbs all over the city.
With the final score 2-2 after extra time, the Black Cats went down 5-4 on penalties.
It was club veteran Lee Cattermole who missed the vital shoot-out penalty.
After the game, Sunderland fans were downhearted but proclaimed themselves proud of the team’s performance - and the example the travelling Red and White Army had shown.
Friends Kenny Dugdale, 59, and Ken Woodhouse , 63, were full of praise for the fans who had made the trip to the capital.
Kenny said: “It was a great turn-out and all the supporters who made the trip have done us proud..
Ken said the team had played well but paid the price for not pressing their advantage when they were on top.
He said: “The first half was fantastic but in the second half, we let them back into it.”
Sunderland City Council leader Coun Graeme Miller said: “Thanks to the team for getting us to Wembley again for another final.
“It’s been a fantastic occasion for us all whatever the result.
“Our city has a proud sporting history, and the achievements of our fantastic Sunderland Football club this season point towards a bright future to look forward to for the team, the owners and of course, the fans.
“The hard work starts again in the league next week, and fingers crossed for all the games we have left and the push for promotion.”
His deputy, Coun Michael Mordey, watched the game in Ttonic in Holmeside.
“It is 1998 all over againSunderland Central MP Julie Elliott took to Twitter to say: “Commiserations Sunderland AFC - you played your hearts out and made the whole city proud.
“The passion of the SAFC fans was absolutely amazing too - for heart and spirit Sunderland’s supporters are unbeatable.”