Late goals from Patrick van Aanholt and Duncan Watmore secured back-to-back Premier League wins for Sunderland as they moved out of the bottom three with a 2-0 win over 10-man Stoke City.
The Wearsiders went into the game having claimed only their second league win of the campaign by beating Crystal Palace 1-0 away from home on Monday.
A disjointed first-half display served as evidence of why Sunderland have been struggling at the wrong end of the table, but the game turned when Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross was controversially sent off after 47 minutes
Shawcross was dismissed for a second bookable offence following a foul on Watmore, and Sunderland’s perseverance was rewarded in the final eight minutes.
Full-back Van Aanholt lashed home an 82nd-minute effort from the edge of the area after Adam Johnson laid a free-kick into his path. And the victory was sealed two minutes later as substitute Watmore was rewarded for an energetic display, surging into the box from the right and firing in across the face of goal to send Sunderland two points clear of the relegation zone.
The game was preceded by a minute’s applause for Marton Fulop, whose parents were in attendance to witness the tributes for the former Sunderland and Stoke goalkeeper who died at the age of 32 earlier this month following a battle with cancer.
Jermain Defoe – the match-winner against Crystal Palace – spurned the game’s first chance when he flashed an effort wide of the left-hand post in the 19th minute.
Defoe – who had been passed fit despite picking up an injury at Palace – then limped off in the 31st minute to be replaced by Watmore.
Stoke threatened two minutes later, but Costel Pantilimon produced a fine reaction save to deny Jonathan Walters from point-blank range after the Republic of Ireland forward had met Marko Arnautovic’s left-wing delivery.
The first half ended with contentious moments at both ends, Shawcross lucky to escape two quick cautions as he saw yellow for a foul on Steven Fletcher after avoiding a booking for a challenge on Watmore.
Pantilimon was equally fortunate to avoid being punished at the other end for a handball when he appeared to dive on the ball outside the area.
Shawcross’ luck ran out two minutes into the second period, however, when he lunged in again on Watmore although replays suggested he may have got some of the ball. Referee Mike Dean thought otherwise and reduced the visitors to 10 men.
Jeremain Lens, a 54th-minute replacement for Sebastian Larsson, almost set up the opening goal, only for Yann M’Vila to be denied by Jack Butland, who then tipped a Sebastian Coates header over.
But Van Aanholt finally got the better of Butland in stunning fashion eight minutes from time, with Watmore then deservedly making it three wins in five games for Sam Allardyce’s resurgent side.