Back in January 2006, Martin Allen’s Bees were flying high in League One with ambitions of promotion to the second tier for the first-time since 1992 while Sunderland, under Mick McCarthy, were rock bottom of the Premier League with just nine points from 22 matches.
The Black Cats had beaten non-league Northwich Victoria 3-0 in their Third-Round tie while The Bees journey to Round Four, for the second consecutive year, had seen them defeat Rochdale, Oldham Athletic and Stockport County. 30 places in the Football League pyramid separated the two sides at kick-off but many in the crowd and in the media sensed an upset.
It had been 57 years since The Bees had knocked out top-flight opposition in the FA Cup but those packed into Griffin Park on that bright, chilly, winter’s afternoon were given plenty of reasons to be hopeful. Sam Sodje struck the bar in the first-half as Allen’s side preyed on The Black Cats low confidence.
The opening goal arrived 12 minutes after the restart: DJ Campbell capitalising on some hesitancy from Gary Breen to collect Jay Tabb’s through ball, round Kelvin Davis, and find the back of the net. The visitors’ equaliser nine minutes later had more than an element of fortune about it as Julio Arca’s cross evaded Stuart Nelson and nestled in the back of the net.
However, The Bees were not to be denied and re-took the lead in the final minute. Campbell reacted fastest to Lloyd Owusu’s knockdown before drilling his low shot across Davis and into the bottom corner. The full-time whistle prompted a mass pitch invasion as fans went to celebrate with their cup heroes.
The brace, DJ’s seventh and eighth goals in six games, proved to be the striker’s final in a Bees shirt. A £500,000 bid from Premier League Birmingham City was accepted three days later and DJ was off. He departed having scored 12 goals in 18 starts and left an indelible mark on Brentford’s cup run which would end with a 3-1 defeat at Charlton Athletic in the Last 16.
In his absence, The Bees won just seven of their final 19 league games to miss out on automatic promotion on the last day of the season. A two-legged Play-Off defeat to Swansea City proved to be the final game for Allen, and many of the squad, with relegation to League Two following 12 months later. For Sunderland, the relegation writing was on the wall and they dropped out of the top flight with a whimper, finishing bottom with just 15 points from 38 games.
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