Rising star James Henry went from hero to villain for Reading by scoring twice and then missing from the spot as Stoke advanced into the Carling Cup fourth round after winning 4-3 on penalties.
The Reading-born midfielder's penalty cancelled out Vincent Pericard's early opener and he then produced a sublime low shot to restore parity in the 75th minute after Mamady Sidibe headed Stoke ahead.
The tie went to penalties but while Ricardo Fuller, Liam Lawrence, Glenn Whelan and Pericard all found the net for Stoke, Henry saw his effort saved and Leroy Lita put the Royals' fifth over the crossbar.
Marton Fulop and Anthony Stokes combined to spare Sunderland's blushes as League One Northampton bowed out after another dramatic penalty shoot-out.
Fulop kept out Leon Constantine's kick to see the Black cats through 4-3 on penalties on a night when they were second best for long periods.
The Black Cats looked dead and buried when Colin Larkin, who had given the visitors a 20th-minute lead, crossed for Luke Guttridge to volley home a second nine minutes from time. But a late double from substitute Stokes, the second of them in the third minute of injury-time, sent the tie to extra-time and eventually, penalties.
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