JUBILANT Sunderland fans were full of derby-day delight as the Black Cats made it a famous five straight victories over their fiercest rivals.
Jermain Defoe’s stunning strike on the stroke of half time secured local bragging rights once more - the one-nil victory providing a precious three points to move the club clear of the Premier League trapdoor.
Relegation rivals Burnley’s battling draw with Tottenham meant Sunderland were only out of the bottom three on goal difference ahead of the crunch Easter Sunday clash with Newcastle United.
Anxieties were raised and pulses sent racing when five minutes of stoppage time were announced at the end of the game, but Dick Advocaat’s men comfortably held on to claim a 1-0 win.
The Stadium of Light was transformed into the Stadium of delight when referee Mike Dean’s whistle finally brought the Wear-Tyne derby to a close.
The red and white army were still full of cheer as they piled out of the stadium.
It was great to see Sunderland win - you can’t beat that.John Thompson
Black Cats supporter Trish Graham, 55, from South Shields, said: “It was brilliant, we played them off the park.
“I was a bit apprehensive before the game.It was an absolutely fantastic atmosphere.”
Her partner John Thompson, 65, couldn’t believe fans were put through five extra minutes of agony a the end of the game - but was relieved the side saw the game through.
He said: “I don’t know where those five minutes came from. Sunderland were definitely the better side.
“There was just one minute extra to be played in the first half when Defoe scored.
“I just saw the ball come to him out of the corner of my eye.
“It was like slow motion as the ball went in.”
John’s grandson, James Thompson, eight, is proving a lucky omen for his heroes.
He has been a regular match-goer for three years - and has yet to see Sunderland taste defeat against their north east neighbours.
James said: “It was really good, I was very happy with Jermain Defoe.”
Andrea Cowie, 33, from Shiney Row, Sunderland, said: “I thought they played superbly.
“They controlled the game from start to finish and now that makes it five in a row.
“It was a good a goal as you could see to win a derby game.”
Babs Eaton, 33, from Shiney Row, added: “It was absolutely fantastic. It was a great atmosphere.
“It was the first derby I have been to in person.
“It was great to see Sunderland win - you can’t beat that.”
Mandy Richards, 49, travelled from the West Midlands for the game - and it was worth the early start.She said: “We started off at about 5.30am. I thought the game was going to be touch and go, but they played really well.”
Partner Martin Rooke, 47, added: “It was a brilliant atmosphere. It was the first derby I have been to.
“We have been to a lot of bad games this season, including the 8-0 loss at Southampton, so this makes up for it.”
Police made 25 arrests during the day - but praised the behaviour of the majority of fans from both clubs.
Two men were arrested for breaching banning orders, three for affray, one for criminal damage, five for being drunk and disorderly, one for assault, one for breach of the peace, three for public order offences, two for possessing alcohol in a sports ground, five for entering the playing field and two for possession of drugs.
Chief Supt Steve Neill said: “The vast majority of fans were great today; they represented themselves and their clubs impeccably and enjoyed the Wear Tyne derby for the great occasion that it is.
“The policing operation went well and I’d like to commend the professionalism of all those involved.
“This was very much a partnership operation and the degree of planning that went into this large scale operation ensured that genuine fans were able to enjoy the game in an atmosphere free of intimidation or violence.
“25 arrests out of crowd of 50,000 is low and I’m pleased that the vast majority of fans who attended today were clearly there to enjoy the football and were not interested in causing trouble.
“I’d like to praise supporters from both clubs - they worked well with officers on the ground, were extremely patient and good natured and enjoyed the day in the best sprit. The holdback went very smoothly and supporters worked really well with police and stewards.
“Public safety is always our number one priority during any football match and the few people who chose to pose a threat to public safety were dealt with swiftly by police.”