Kevin Kyle's equaliser wiped out Mikael Forsell's stunning individual goal to earn Sunderland a replay at Birmingham.
Forsell fired Birmingham into a 27th-minute lead, working his way past two defenders to shoot past Mart Poom.
But Sunderland levelled 11 minutes later when Kyle glanced home Marcus Stewart's cross.
Sunderland came closest to a second-half winner when Stephen Wright's volley struck the crossbar.
After Clinton Morrison failed to get enough power into his second-minute hooked shot to stretch Poom, Sunderland picked up the pace and made most of the early running.
Stewart twice made excursions deep into the Birmingham penalty area, the first time he was crowded out with lack of support and on the second occasion Blues keeper Maik Taylor blocked his shot from a tight angle.
27 mins: Forsell's brilliant individual goal puts Birmingham ahead
38 mins: Kyle's glancing header puts Sunderland level
89 mins: Cisse is sent off
The First Division side then strung together a collection of passes to open up the Birmingham defence down the right but with Stewart unmarked Kyle's cross lacked weight and Darren Purse was able to cut it out.
Sunderland failed to convert their early superiority into a goal and the Premiership side inevitably made them pay on 27 minutes with a brilliant goal from Forsell.
Picking the ball up 25 yards out, the Finn shrugged off Jeff Whitley and then rolled his foot over the top of the ball to wrong-foot Gary Breen and buy himself the yard of space to curl his shot around Poom.
Morrison had a chace to double Birmingham's lead on 34 minutes but after springing clear of Sunderland's offside trap, he dragged his shot across goal.
Birmingham paid for that as Sunderland drew level 11 minutes later, Stewart finding space on the left to whip in a cross which Kyle glanced home at the near post.
As half time approached, Poom was forced to turn over Robbie Savage's free-kick from 20 yards.
Forsell's superb goal put Birmingham ahead.
Sunderland overran Birmingham in midfield at times, and the First Division side passed the ball patiently and crisply to work a 50th minute opening which saw McAteer's cross met by Stephen Wright's volley which crashed against the bar with Taylor beaten.
A facial injury to Morrison prompted the introduction of Christophe Dugarry and the Frenchman produced a delicious cross for Forsell whose header deflected behind off Joachim Bjorklund with Birmingham appealing for a penalty.
Stan Lazaridis showed his pace as he motored down the left flank before unleashing a fierce shot which drew a good save from Poom.
Dugarry's introduction slowly swung the game in Birmimgham's favour and his cross was met by Lazaridis whose shot was deflected for another corner.
Dugarry beat Sunderland's offside trap but failed to control the dropping ball which ran through to Taylor, while at the other end John Oster blasted over when well-placed.
Substitute Aliou Cisse collected two yellow cards in the space of 10 minutes to get his marching orders in injury time.
Sunderland: Poom, Wright, Bjorklund, Breen, McCartney, Oster, McAteer, Whitley, Arca, Kyle, Stewart.
Subs not used: Tommy Smith, Thornton, Williams, Thirlwell, Alnwick.
Birmingham: Maik Taylor, Upson, Cunningham, Purse, Kenna, Lazaridis, Hughes (Carter 90), Savage (Cisse 81), Johnson, Morrison (Dugarry 63), Forssell.
Subs not used: Bennett, John.
Sent Off: Cisse (90).
Booked: Cunningham, Dugarry, Cisse, Johnson.
Referee: G Barber (Hertfordshire).