The presence of David Moyes and Martin Bain wasn’t quite enough to inspire Sunderland to a derby victory in the FA Youth Cup. The Black Cats did stage an oustanding second-half comeback, Josh Maja and Elliot Embleton turning around a 3-1 deficit at Eppleton CW.
Maja, in particular, underlined his status as one of the Wearsiders’ most promising youngsters, at the heart of everything the hosts did and wreaking havoc in the Newcastle defence.
But it was not enough to seal a quarter-final berth, as Lewis McNall’s late winner settled the contest in the Magpies’ favour.
That was his second of the game, with Owen Bailey and Adam Wilson also on the scoresheet.
Wilson was an enterprising presence throughout, his dribbling one of the highlights of a gripping contest.
Sunderland’s strong-looking attack began the game on top, forcing an opening on the edge of the Newcastle box. Josh Maja found space and looked certain to score, but could only shoot wide.
The pace of Maja and Asoro had Newcastle on the back foot and the hosts were looking the more likely to break the deadlock.
There were warning signs of brittle foundations at the back, however, when Wilson forced a diving save from Sunderland keeper Michael Woud.
The 18-year-old was called into action again when Brandon Taylor cheaply gave the ball away in his own half. Newcastle sprung a counter down the left, before moving the ball back infield, though Matthew Longstaff could only shoot straight into Woud’s arms.
Wilson made the first defining contribution, his dribbling a constant thorn in Sunderland’s side during a vibrant first-half display. He broke into the area and was tripped by Oscar Krusnell, with McNall firing his penalty straight down the middle for the lead.
Just five minutes later, it was 2-0 for Newcastle.
Longstaff delivered an excellent free-kick across the Sunderland six-yard box and Bailey got in front of his marker to bundle home over Woud and into the roof of the net.
The scoreline was harsh on Sunderland, who were seeing plenty of the ball and almost halved the deficit when Christopher Allan shifted the ball onto his left and shot from 20 yards.
Visiting keeper Nathan Harker was well beaten, but the ball just crawled wide of the post.
Maja, a dominant figure in the opening exchanges, had faded somewhat, but Asoro continued to occupy the Newcastle defenders, hauling his side up the field with his pace and energy.
The hosts ended the half in the ascendancy, going close just before the whistle when Elliot Embleton pinched the ball on the edge of the Newcastle area. He ran through one-on-one, but Harker did well to block at his near post.
Coach Elliot Dickman, just promoted to the Under-23 role after Andy Welsh’s departure for Wigan Athletic, must have delivered some team talk for his side were utterly dominant at the start of the second period.
Embleton and Maja both forced saves from Harker before the latter deservedly got on the scoresheet. A fine dummy from Lee Connelly released the 18-year-old in the box and his left-foot finish past the keeper was emphatic.
They came within inches of restoring parity on the hour mark when Maja, by now the game’s most influential player by a distance, got to the byline. He cut back across goal, but his right-foot curling effort was just wide.
Newcastle had offered nothing in the half, but scored with their first attempt to go 3-1 up as Wilson finally got the goal he had threatened on so many occasions in the first half, smashing into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
Sunderland, to their credit, were unfazed and roared back level with 10 minutes to go.
Maja again started the comeback, winning and coolly converting a penalty. Just moments later, Asoro laid off the ball for Embleton, who took a touch and passed it into the bottom corner for 3-3.
That was a prelude to a frenetic final 10 minutes, the game flowing from end-to end.
A Newcastle cross from the left-flank dropped off the bar, and when the cross was put back across the box, McNall missed a golden opportunity to head home, glancing his header wide.
Asoro nearly put Sunderland ahead for the first time moments later, thumping a header towards the top corner, but Harker made a superb flying save.
Heartbreak followed for the Black Cats, McNall settling it in the 88th minute.
With his back to goal, he spun away from his marker and slotted into the far corner, sending his side into the quarter-finals.
Sunderland: Woud, Gamble, Krusnell (Diamond 73), Allan, Taylor, Storey, Asoro, Embleton, Connelly, Maja, Hackett. Subs not used: Young, Patterson, Best
Newcastle: Harker, Kitchen, Aplin, Longstaff, Bailey, Gibson, Wilson, Watts (Goodridge 67), McNall, Allan, Smith (Lowther 57). Subs not used: Huuhtanen, Spooner, Adu-Peprah.