And, after scoring the winning goal which ended Sunderland's FA Cup dream for yet another year, there was plenty of venomous name calling from the few Mackems who turned up to see their team crash out 2-1.
Joy boys: Lee Hughes (right) celebrates victory
Hughes served three years in jail for causing death by dangerous driving, during which he met his victim's family and made his apologies. Now his critics, he says, can only be silenced with goals and a smile.
Whether the 34-year-old striker needed to perform a warm down and gesture the score in front of Notts County's fans - and Sunderland's most vocal corner - is questionable.
Stewards took a dim enough view to move the League One side's hero back to the bench, and there was something a little arrogant about his grinning at his tormentors as he did so.
Hughes, though, insisted it is the only way he can respond.
Cup of glee: Notts County boss Paul Ince celebrates with Stephen Hunt
'I understand the abuse,' he said. 'It is part and parcel of football and I have to take it on the chin. It is part of being me. The only way to shut it up is to put the ball in the back of the net. I would never get aggressive, so I just smile, which is what I did.
'I could never think I would play on a stage like this when I was in prison. I had to take it one day at a time. That is as much as I could think about.
'Of course, I am grateful to get a second chance. I am really taking it now because I have to. I feel lucky to be playing football again. Obviously I am gutted about what has happened in the past but football is my job and I have to get on with it.
'And it is nice to be a Football League club coming to a place like this and getting a result. I remember playing in the Premier League and losing on a day like this and it is horrible.
'It is hard for the big club. Everyone thinks you are going to win and it doesn't always happen.'
Paul Ince's team deserved their win over a Sunderland side who have suffered only one League defeat at home this season.
Superstition prevented Ince from crowing. With Notts on a seven-game unbeaten run, Ince sends up assistant Alex Rae to do post-match interviews.
Rae said: 'It'll change when we lose but we're unbeaten since he first did it so he keeps sending me up.'
Stadium of plight: Steve Bruce can't hide his frustration
Notts were on top after referee Stuart Attwell ruled Craig Westcarr's bundled fourth-minute opener legal. Hughes wrapped it up in the second half, although Darren Bent scored a late penalty.
This was Sunderland boss Steve Bruce's second humiliation at the hands of Magpies this season. He cannot afford a third at the Stadium of Light next Sunday when Newcastle return.
Bruce said: 'If I'm being honest the side who play Newcastle won't resemble that one. To go out like that was pathetic.'
Sunderland 1 Notts County 2: Ince nails his old friend BruceBruce: The day I saw Ince pull a gun on Ferguson at Manchester UnitedSUNDERLAND FC