Lynden Gooch was the hero for The Black Cats with a clinical finish – all created courtesy of a pinpoint, defence-splitting pass by Aiden McGeady.
Story of the game
The early exchanges were as cagey as you would expect, given the occasion. Sunderland – the side from the league above – controlled the initial play, with Tranmere keen to pick The Black Cats off on the counter-attack.
Despite Sunderland marginally being the better side in the opening 15 minutes, it took some very good goalkeeping from Lee Burge to stop The Super Whites taking the lead.
After Tranmere piled players into the box, Leadbitter looked to thump the ball away from danger, but it took a wicked deflection and was destined for the goal if it was not for an acrobatic save from Burge.
Tranmere looked to build on that promising opportunity, but got caught napping in midfield as Sunderland swept forward with pace. Maguire found space to shoot on 16 minutes, before it took an awkward block off Jay Spearing – but fortunately for the former Liverpool-man, it just crept wide of the goal.
Sunderland grew into the game as the half went on, with multiple chances going begging – in particular for their bright sparks McGeady and Maguire – but they could not break the deadlock before the interval.
Some McGeady brilliance secures Sunderland the victory
Tranmere came out the blocks for the second half flying and were a solid Burge save away from emphatically opening the scoring.
Full-back Khan drove from the half-way line and skipped by challenges from Maguire and Luke O'Nien - but could not apply the finish when it was needed, with his effort straight down the barrel of the Sunderland goalkeeper.
It was clear to see very early on into the second half that this final was just starting to come to life. McGeady drove down the left-hand side and managed to plant the ball onto the foot of top scorer Charlie Wyke with his cross into the middle of the penalty area, but the in-form striker could not get a clean connection on the ball and it eventually went out for a goal-kick.
Just six minutes after that big Wyke chance, Sunderland broke the deadlock under the arch. An inch-perfect ball from McGeady split the Tranmere defence and found its way to Gooch, who showed a clean pair of heels and slammed the ball past Scott Davies to give The Black Cats a priceless lead in the capital.
Tranmere responded well after going behind and through the growing influence of substitute Corey Blackett-Taylor, had several promising opportunities as they piled the pressure on Sunderland heading into the final 20 minutes.
Blackett-Taylor excelled after being introduced, and should have pulled Keith Hill's side level when he tricked his way down the left-hand side and worked space in the Sunderland box to have a shot - but his effort was tame and easily saved by Burge.
Despite Tranmere's pressure, it was Sunderland who came the closest to scoring again as goalkeeper Davies was forced to tip an O'Nien header over his own crossbar - an opportunity all created from something we seen plenty of all game - a pinpoint McGeady cross.
Sunderland weathered the storm from the side of the Wirral in the final five minutes – and in the process secured a priceless Wembley win for their supporters, who hope this will not be the final time they taste that sweet success at the home of football.
The turning of the page on Wearside
Today – if Kyril Louis Dreyfus' recent takeover of the club did not already – marked the turning of the page for Sunderland.
They banished those Wembley demons with a victory over a dogged and determined Tranmere side, who despite being from the division below, were probably unfortunate not to take the game at least to extra time.
It took a bit of magic and a bit of much-needed quality from Aiden McGeady to settle the score, as he put an immaculate pass that was fit for the location, onto the run of Lynden Gooch – a man who has truly seen it all on Wearside over the last few years – who slotted the ball past a helpless Scott Davies in the Tranmere goal.
Some would say it is typical of Sunderland for their supporters to venture in their masses to Wembley eight times since their historic 1973 cup final victory over Leeds United and lose every single time. Yet when there are no fans in attendance, they finally pick up a win.
But those 40,000+ Mackems who were robbed of seeing their team win under the arch live in the flesh today will not care less.
They have their win, and it looks like they have their club back too.
A club to be proud of once again.
Sunderland: Burge; Power, Flanagan, O'Nien, McFadzean; Gooch, Scowen, Leadbitter, McGeady; Maguire, Wyke. (4-4-2)
Tranmere Rovers: Davies; Khan, Clarke, Ray, MacDonald; Feeney, Spearing; Woolery, Morris, Lloyd-McGoldrick; Lewis. (4-2-3-1)