Sunderland reach Wembley final! Black Cats beat Lincoln City on penalties in Papa John's Trophy semi-final
They were short of their best for much of this, Lincoln showing they are top of the league.
A half-time injury for Bailey Wright made the task all the harder but their response to going behind was superb, Charlie WYke on the scoresheet again.
A perfect record from the spot in a nervy shootout sending them to Wembley.
Both sides had stated their intent by naming a side as strong as they could in the circumstances.
Johnson's big call was at centre-half where he had five senior players unavailable and it was Luke O'Nien who got the nod alongside Bailey Wright.
That in turn allowed Dan Neil his biggest chance to impress yet, in the side from the start after impressing in the quarter final.
Sunderland's emphatic win at Sincil Bank earlier in the season was fresh in the memory but so too was the the way Lincoln started the game, twice missing gilt-edged openings before falling behind.
That perhaps explained a slightly passive start from the Black Cats, the press less aggressive than we had seen days earlier against Doncaster.
Part of that was testament to Lincoln's confidence in possession, moving the ball quickly and carrying it with intent.
Sunderland looked off the pace in comparison, though in truth Lincoln had little to show for their efforts.
It was important that the Black Cats survived that early pressure and having done so, they began to impose themselves a touch more as the half developed.
After a quiet start they began to find McGeady in more dangerous areas and it started to yield half-chances.
McFadzean's deflected drive flashed just wide of the far post, before the winger drew a save from distance after cutting in from the left.
They had finished the half the better of the sides but for the most part, there was little between two sides who looked wary of the threat the other posed on the counter.
Sunderland's growing confidence was visibly knocked at the break when Bailey Wright had to be replaced, leaving the home side without a recognised centre-half on the pitch.
Conor McGrandles drew a good early save from Burge as they began to find space on the break.
Johnson was concerned enough to make a double substitution in midfield, but Lincoln’s threat yielded a goal shortly after.
Sunderland were adamant that it should have been their throw-in at the start of the move, but they were too slow in picking up the threat and though Burge made a good save from McGrandles, Scully had the simplest of finishes as he followed up.
The response from the home side was good, substitute Diamond offering a threat as Wyke twice forced good saves from Palmer.
Chris Maguire was also bringing some welcome energy as staked a claim, and the pressure told quickly as a familiar combination came to the fore.
McGeady clipped a good ball onto the penalty spot and there was Wyke with a gorgeous, cushioned header to the far corner that left the goalkeeper with no chance.
Sunderland finished the strongest, but did need superb last-ditch challenges from Power and McLaughlin to secure the shootout.
The Black Cats produced a perfect set, Leadbitter scoring a nerveless winner after Howarth struck the bar.