SUNDERLAND created a six-point buffer with the relegation zone after recording their first victory over Everton in 12 years.
Paolo Di Canio marked his first home game in charge of Sunderland with a win, as the Black Cats followed up their derby success with another massive step towards Premier League survival.
Stephane Sessegnon scored the only goal of the game on the stroke of half-time when his shot from 20 yards squirmed under Tim Howard after an excellent opening 45 minutes from the hosts, where Seb Larsson three times went close from free-kicks.
Everton were improved in the second half, but the closest they came was a Marouane Fellaini shot which deflected off Nikica Jelavic and almost wrong-footed Simon Mignolet.
Jack Colback replaced the injured Phil Bardsley in the starting line-up, in the only change from the side which won 3-0 at St James’s Park.
Colback slotted straight in at right-back, the position where he finished the match against Newcastle.
Connor Wickham and Titus Bramble remained sidelined, with rookie right-back Liam Marrs included among the substitutes for the first time.
Everton made two changes from the side which drew at Arsenal in midweek, with fit-again Leon Osman replacing Ross Barkley and John Heitinga introduced for the injured Phil Jagielka.
Backed by a buoyant home crowd, Sunderland had a golden opportunity in the fifth minute when Heitinga was indecisive in dealing with Seb Larsson’s header forward.
The ball dropped to Danny Graham with just Tim Howard to beat, but the striker’s shot on the stretch was blocked by the legs of the Everton keeper.
Sunderland went desperately close again in the 12th minute when Seb Larsson’s free-kick from the right of goal, 20 yards out, just clipped the bar on its way over the top, with Howard beaten.
Kevin Mirallas provided a warning sign in the 33rd minute when he let fly with a shot from the edge of the area that deflected off Carlos Cuellar and just wide of the far post.
Five minutes before the break, Larsson went desperately close again from a free-kick.
This time, from a similar position to the left of goal, he aimed for the far post, but his right-footed curler drifted an inch or two wide of the woodwork.
It was almost third time lucky for Larsson in the last minute of the first half when his free-kick from 25 yards was pushed away brilliantly by Howard, at full-stretch to his right.
But moments later, Sunderland got the breakthrough their first half performance discovered.
Leighton Baines’ poor pass was intercepted by Larsson, who fed Sessegnon midway inside the Everton half.
Sessegnon burst forward and unleashed a low right-footed shot from 25 yards which squirmed under Howard’s grasp and into the far bottom corner.
HALF-TIME Sunderland 1 Everton 0
Danny Rose fired a couple of yards wide from just outside the box in the 52nd minute after a superb tackle to win a 50-50 against Osman.
Simon Mignolet preserved Sunderland’s lead with a superb stop in the 62nd minute after Marouane Fellaini scuffed a shot from the edge of the area, which deflected off half-time substitute Nikica Jelavic.
The linesman’s flag stayed down, despite Jelavic being offside, but Mignolet readjusted superbly to parry and gather at the feet of Mirallas.
Everton were presented with an indirect free-kick from 12 yards in the 78th minute after Larsson dreadfully over-hit a back pass from halfway and Mignolet had no chance but to catch the ball.
But Sunderland defended the chance doggedly, blocking Baines’ initial low effort and then putting bodies on the line to Everton’s subsequent two shots.
Sunderland had a great chance to double their lead in the 84th minute after Graham outmuscled Sylvain Distin on the right-hand touchline.
Adam Johnson pounced onto the loose ball and descended on goal on the diagonal, but his right-footed shot against the outrushing Howard was blocked by the keeper’s legs.
FULL-TIME Sunderland 1 Everton 0
SUNDERLAND: Mignolet, Colback, Cuellar, O’Shea, Rose, Johnson, N’Diaye, Larsson (Vaughan 81), McClean, Sessegnon (Mangane 90), Graham. Subs not used: Westwood, Kilgallon, Marrs, Mandron, Laidler. Booked: Mignolet (78)
EVERTON: Howard, Coleman, Distin, Heitinga, Baines, Miralles, Osman (Barkley 77), Fellaini, Gibson (Jelavic 46), Pienaar, Anichebe (Naismith 77). Subs not used: Mucha, Oviedo, Neville, Duffy. Booked: Heitinga (44), Coleman (77)
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