Sunderland registered their first Premier League away win since February and ended a run of five games without a victory by overcoming 10-man Fulham 3-1 on Sunday.
Brede Hangeland was sent off for Fulham after half an hour, but although Steven Fletcher’s opener for the visitors was canceled out by Mladen Petric, goals from Carlos Cuellar and Stephane Sessegnon gave Sunderland the win.
With 10 goals to their name, Martin O’Neill’s side are no longer the lowest-scoring team out of England’s 92 league clubs.
The victory lifted the Black Cats above Wigan Athletic into 15th place, three points above the relegation zone, while Fulham remain ninth.
“It was a big, big effort by the team. After the sending-off we tried to stretch them and keep a bit of width about ourselves,” Sunderland manager O’Neill told Sky Sports. “Naturally a sending-off changes the course of a match, but you still have to break the team down and we scored some great goals in doing so.”
Dimitar Berbatov headed wide from Damien Duff’s cross after five minutes at Craven Cottage, but the first half was a sleepy affair until Hangeland was sent off by referee Lee Probert.
The Norwegian was shown a straight red card for jumping in two-footed on Lee Cattermole — himself no stranger to full-blooded challenges — and despite Fulham coach Martin Jol’s incredulous reaction, the decision was correct.
A pivotal 14-second passage of play tipped the balance of the match in Sunderland’s favor after five minutes of the second period.
Fulham leftback John Arne Riise hit the Sunderland bar with a deflected shot and Sunderland broke quickly, with Adam Johnson’s fine, sweeping cross freeing Fletcher to toe the ball past Mark Schwarzer.
Petric came on for the injured Bryan Ruiz and lifted a chance over the bar shortly after making his entrance, while at the other end Schwarzer produced a full-stretch save to repel Johnson’s curler.
Fulham drew level a minute later, Petric steering the ball into the roof of the net from inside the six-yard box after Duff drilled a low cross across the face of goal.
The teams were not level for long, though, with Spanish centerback Cuellar heading Sunderland back into the lead from Johnson’s corner only three minutes later to register his first goal for the club.
Sessegnon put daylight between the teams with a superb goal in the 70th minute, rolling his marker and unleashing a glorious long-range strike that found the net via the inside of the right-hand post.
Fletcher was denied a second goal by the assistant referee’s flag, while Sunderland were indebted to goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, who saved brilliantly from Steve Sidwell and Petric to preserve the visitors’ two-goal cushion.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg