WHEN it comes to play-offs, Jason Pearce is hoping it’ll be third time lucky against the Black Cats.

The former Cherries captain is set to step out at Wembley on Sunday afternoon to take on Sunderland, looking to banish the demons of two previous failed attempts at clinching promotion to the Championship.

Now plying his trade at Charlton Athletic, the centre-back’s first play-off experience ended in heartbreak.

With the 2011 League One semi-final tie at Huddersfield on a knife-edge at 4-4 on aggregate in extra time of the second leg, Pearce was sent off for a lunging challenge on Kevin Kilbane as Cherries went on to lose the epic on penalties.

That proved to be the no-nonsense centre-back’s final outing in a Cherries shirt as he moved to Portsmouth that summer and following spells at Leeds and Wigan, he transferred to Charlton in 2016.

And in his second season with the Addicks, the League One play-offs came calling again.

Skippering the team to face Shrewsbury, Charlton lost both legs to head out 2-0 on aggregate as Pearce suffered his second semi-final disappointment.

12 months on and the 31-year-old has now gone one step further.

And the London-born defender overcame the hurdle of the semi-finals as Lee Bowyer’s side sealed a thrilling win against Doncaster on penalties to set up the showdown with Sunderland.

Looking ahead to the play-offs, Pearce said: “We’ve got a good squad at Charlton this year.

“We got in the play-offs last year but lost in the semis.

“This year I feel like we’ve got a better squad so I think we’ll have a better chance.

“Hopefully we’ll go up.”

And if he can emerge triumphant in the League One play-off final, it would be a fitting way to mark 10 years since another of the defender’s top achievements.

Having been relegated from the third tier in his first season in Dorset, the centre-half played in all but two league games the following campaign as Cherries completed their ‘Greatest Escape’, battling back from starting the campaign on minus 17 points to avoid relegation out of the Football League.

Pearce, who netted in Eddie Howe’s first game as permanent boss, a 3-1 success against Wycombe in January 2009, says the tough times helped the team in the long run.

Looking back at the past decade, Pearce told the Daily Echo: “It seems like only yesterday that we were all together but it’s obviously been over 10 years.

“We had a real tight-knit group and the banter is still there, even from 10 years ago. I think that goes to show from when we played together that we were tight and I think seeing how many people came back for the Minus 17 documentary (in April) shows we all care.

“We all care about the club and it’s great to see them doing so well.

“I’ve always played with my heart on my sleeve and give my all every single game. It was just a bonus to get a goal (against Wycombe) and help us on our way.

“To start the season on minus 17 was always going to be tough, but Eddie put that belief in us and we gave it a good go.”

He added: “Sometimes I look back and think going through that adversity actually brought us closer together.

“A lot of people say that sometimes going backwards or going down can bring you closer together. It certainly had that affect on us.

“We had big characters in the dressing room like Warren Cummings, who was one of the older ones, Darren Anderton, what a great player he was. We had good players around us to help us through that time.

“I was only young then but it did bring us together and got the best out of everyone really.”

Pearce became a fans’ favourite during his time at Cherries, twice winning the Micky Cave-Daily Echo supporters’ player of the year trophy.

And he says he still keeps a close eye on developments at Vitality Stadium.

“I watch every week to see how they’re doing,” he said.

“It’s an incredible job that Eddie’s done and the club and also all the people behind the scenes that were there 10 years ago that are still here now.

“It’s a really well-run club and I hope they can go on and if they invest well in the summer, you never know in the Premier League where they could go.”